Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company
The Albright family has been farming in New Brunswick since the 1920s. On the old homestead, family matriarch, “Great Grammy Lela,” came up with the original recipe that is still used today at Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company. Three generations and nearly 100 years later, Covered Bridge is one of the only family-owned and fully integrated potato chip manufacturers in Canada.
“My brother and I formed the chip company in 2009,” says Ryan Albright, president of Covered Bridge; he works alongside his brother Matt Albright, who runs the family’s farm that grows potatoes for the operation. “In 2004 we formed our first business together buying and selling potatoes. In 2006 we bought the family farm and had the idea for Covered Bridge Potato Chips and after three years of product development, we perfected our recipe and started selling chips.”
What started as a team of three cooking and delivering chips in Ryan’s Toyota Corolla has evolved into a home brand and private-label manufacturer, as well as a distributor for a number of well-known products, such as Jack Links. Covered Bridge now employs 90 people. Operating with 300 acres of potato production, a 27,000-square-foot office, a 35,000-square-foot raw goods warehouse, a 10,000-square-foot plant and 9,000 square feet of office space, the business serves customers throughout Canada and the United States.
Integrated production and services
Covered Bridge’s tasty potato chips begin their journey in the ground – as all good potatoes do. The company plants, nourishes and harvests all potatoes on the family farm, just down the road from the production facility. From there, these spuds do not have far to travel before they are washed, scrubbed, sliced and cooked at the plant.
Once clean, it takes only 15 seconds for eight automated blades to thin-slice 65 pounds of potatoes. Sliced and sized perfectly, the uncooked chips meet the kettle and cook for a little more than five minutes to produce the ultimate crunch. Then the chips take a spin in a centrifuge to remove excess oil and move down the line for inspection. Only the crispiest golden chips make it to the final stages of production.
While there is nothing wrong with a plain potato chip, Covered Bridge mixes in the flavor, tumbling chips for an even coating of varied seasonings. After that, chips are separated, sealed into bags and packed up in boxes for distribution throughout Canada and the United States.
The flavor of success
Covered Bridge produces chips under its own label as well as for private-label customers. The team works with clients to provide integrated production and attentive service for these special line clients, helping to formulate flavors, plan production and packaging and get bags of tasty potato chips out on schedule.
The family business is the only of its kind in Canada. “There are no other small, private potato chip companies in the country,” says Ryan. “Our products are on the shelves with Frito Lay, Old Dutch, Boulder Chips and Kettle Chips.” The company’s small size allows Ryan and his colleagues to build in more flexibility, both in private-label production and in expanding the Covered Bridge product line.
By starting with a unique raw product, the company has been able to build up memorable flavor profiles. “We are the only company in North America that makes chips with dark russet potatoes,” Ryan explains. “It is the same variety of gold to dark chip that the fast food chains use for their fries. Russet potatoes versus regular chips have a much more bold and flavorful taste. We also have the ability to make new and unusual flavors. Our Sloppy Joe Mix is coming out and is a temporary flavor, and we are also introducing a limited run hot dog flavored chip.”
While many small businesses feel limited by their resources in terms of connecting with customers, Covered Bridge has found a way to bring consumers in on the product line in a way that most producers cannot. The production facility is open to tours and curious consumers come in by bus year-round to see how Ryan and Matt make the magic happen.
As the Albright family’s classic flavors grow in popularity, the family continues to work to keep production up with demand. “We are always buying fryers and equipment to make our operation more efficient,” says Ryan. “We also recently added a machine to spin off the oil on the chips. It has been interesting building something from nothing. We are growing to a big brand from little more than a small farm less than 10 years ago when we first had the idea.”
As Covered Bridge grows, the company seeks to give back to its dedicated employees. “We just put in a company gym that is open 24/7 with changing rooms and showers,” says Ryan “We are working on programs to get employees active and we want to have amenities here that reward them.”
Over the coming years, Covered Bridge is looking to expand sales targets, all the while keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry. “There are trends towards healthier, cleaner and gluten-free snack options,” Ryan notes. “There’s more awareness. All of our products are certified gluten-free and we test heavily to ensure they are safe for the people who buy them. The new website launch is moving our branding forward as a small family business. We are stressing how we grow our raw materials and make our chips.”
Over the coming years, Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company shows no sign of slowing down, moving ahead with positive growth with quality, flavorful potato chips.