In 1920 in Tiffin, Ohio, Fred and Ethel Ballreich started their homemade potato chip operation on a dirt floor garage using a copper kettle heated with wood scraps. They were able to produce 14 pounds per day of the famous “marcelled” (meaning wavy) potato chips, which was taken from the popular ladies’ “wavy” hairstyle of the 1920s.
Producing only the highest quality potato chips, this small business created large demand that called for additional assistance. Carl Ballreich, Fred’s brother, left the Chevrolet Motor plant in Flint, Michigan, and joined forces along with his wife, Emma. Both couples continued to grow the business, living side by side on Ohio Avenue, and then eventually they built a small factory behind their homes. After WWII, Fred’s sons, Doyle and Nevin, along with Carl’s sons, Owen and Don, and his son-in-law, Robert Reis, joined the business. It was at this time that the plant was incorporated into Ballreich Bros., Inc.
Their continued growth called for additional equipment. Sacking machines were added to increase productivity up to 450lbs per day; a new warehouse was built in Defiance, Ohio to better serve that part of the state, an automatic slicer, salter, hopper filler and kettle were installed, and liquid shortening was introduced to replace the solid form. In the 1960s, a hydraulic lift was added and an additional warehouse was built onto the building for added storage. Production began heat-sealing bags of potato chips to better preserve their freshness and speed up the chip making process. As old equipment was replaced, they were able to produce 2,000lbs of potato chips each hour! As the business continued to grow, additional potato chip flavors were introduced and in the 1990s, and the snack line expanded to include party mix, pretzel sticks, pretzel rings, pretzel rods, pork rinds, tortilla chips, cheese popcorn, caramel popcorn with nuts, and triple mix popcorn.
With the turn of the century, even more exciting advances took place which included onboarding of numerous software applications, growth in sales and marketing, handheld computers for sales representatives and a service expansion into the Mansfield, Ohio area. To celebrate the 150th birthday of America’s favorite snack food, they helped create the “World’s Largest Bag of Potato Chips”, a Guinness World Record, at the Ohio State Fair.
In 2006, Carl’s grandson, Brian Reis, and his wife, Linda, took over as the sole owners of Ballreich’s. In the same year, Ballreich’s became to “Official Chip” of the Toledo Mudhens. In 2007, the 4th generation, great-granddaughter, Haley, joined the family business. In addition, a partnership with The Ohio State University Dining Center took place, 2lb Value Boxes were created for COSTCO, and Gourmet Chocolate Potato Chips, Cheese Puffs, Corn Puffs and 1# FLAT Fantastic Potato Chips were introduced. Ballreich’s was also featured in the move Street Kings with Keanu Reeves, as well as on Rachael Ray’s cooking show, and The View in 2008.
In the following years, Ballreich’s entered the world of social media in 2009, was awarded the Small Business Administration Family-Owned Business of the Year (Cleveland District) Award in 2010, and yet another family member, Carl’s great-grandson, Rob Reis, joined Ballreich’s as a process manager and engineer in 2011. Potato Sticks were launched in 2014 and Ballreich’s was selected as the Snack Manufacturer of the Year by the Snack Food & Wholesale Baker Association. The company also was selected as outstanding business of the year by Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. (now Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership) for its demonstration of leadership in its field, community involvement and support of local charities and nonprofits. They were also featured in Walmart’s “Made in America” campaign.
In 2015 came both achievements and hardships. Major improvements were made to the plant; they achieved a new level of quality food certification, and also opened the Granny Ballreich’s Company Store. On the downside, they suffered two fires in the plant facility but were able to come back better and stronger than ever. The next year brought awards from the Chip Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York, and a new website featured the ability to order products online.
To start a new chapter of its history, in April of 2019, Ballreich Bros. Inc. was sold to Ballreich Snack Food Company, an investor group formed by 20 Northwest Ohio business professionals, who want to keep the company thriving. They have worked diligently to keep the manufacturing process operating at its existing location at 186 Ohio Ave. and have put measures in place to maintain product consistency. This includes the purchase of some major new equipment, including a quality lab, new scales for weighing and new sacking equipment, which puts the finished product into bags. Other machinery also has been replaced and some added to achieve accuracy with slicing potatoes. Also important to product quality, is the team of 60 employees that came along with the purchase. This is a dedicated group that knows a lot about the company and is loyal to the Ballreich brand.
To celebrate our 100-year anniversary, Ballreich’s announced 3 new products – Honey Butter, Sweet Thai Chili and Smoked Cheddar were added to the list of flavors which provides our customers additional options. It was time to add on some international flair to the traditional classics. Most recently, we teamed up with Huy Fong Foods, Inc., to launch a series of exclusive Sriracha flavored potato products.
2021 has also brought on new products, such a Sweet Potato Chips in a variety of sizes and flavors, and the re-branded of the Fantastic Flats, which are now the Classic Thins. There is still more to come this year. Ballreich’s will continue to make the highest quality potato chips and snacks as well as maintain exemplary customer service. We will build onto the Ballreich tradition and hope to set the company up to thrive for the next 100 years.
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