How The Pennsylvania Dutch Turned A Rural City Into A Snack Meals Empire : The Salt : NPR

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A girl purchasing within the 1970s picks up a bag of Snyder’s pretzels. Right now, Hanover stays a middle of snack meals manufacturing, even because the meals business modifications round it.

Courtesy of Snyder’s of Hanover


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Courtesy of Snyder’s of Hanover

A girl purchasing within the 1970s picks up a bag of Snyder’s pretzels. Right now, Hanover stays a middle of snack meals manufacturing, even because the meals business modifications round it.

Courtesy of Snyder’s of Hanover

Tucked near the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland, the borough of Hanover, Pa., inhabitants 16,000, is a great distance from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

A farming middle with an industrial core, previous to the flip of the 20th century this rural city was finest referred to as the location of the final skirmish earlier than the Union and Accomplice armies clashed on the Battle of Gettysburg in the summertime of 1863. However due to a provident mixture of heritage and modernization, York County, the place Hanover is positioned, has exchanged its Civil Conflict identification for a extra savory picture: “Snack Meals Capital of the World.”

Over the previous century, no fewer than 4 snack meals corporations have been established in Hanover, together with Utz High quality Meals, which has achieved a cult-like standing amongst potato chip aficionados; and Snyder’s of Hanover, which in 2016 was the nation’s finest promoting pretzel model, bringing in additional than $216 million yearly. Regardless of the acquisition of Snyder’s by Campbell Soup Firm in March 2018, these corporations, together with two others, Revonah Pretzels and Wege of Hanover Pretzels, name Hanover house. A number of different snack meals purveyors, together with York Pretzel Firm, Martin’s Potato Chips, Good’s Potato Chips, Tom Sturgis Pretzels and H.Okay. Anderson are positioned elsewhere in York County and within the neighboring county of Lancaster.

In a meals panorama dominated by multinational conglomerates like Frito-Lay and PepsiCo, the century-long survival of Hanover’s snack meals corporations is nothing wanting outstanding. Why has the homegrown snack meals business right here been so profitable, whereas different fledgling snack meals industries in locations like Ohio and Southern California didn’t take flight? Two components distinctive to Southern Pennsylvania alone: the Pennsylvania Dutch and a strategic location simply outdoors the foremost metropoles of the East Coast.

Pennsylvania Dutch affect

The Pennsylvania Dutch, descendants of German-speaking European immigrants, are among the many most identifiable American-made communities. Settling in southern and central Pennsylvania within the 18th century, the Pennsylvania Dutch (together with subsets just like the Amish and Mennonites) earned a status as hardworking, ingenious and non secular individuals, says Marvin Muhlhausen, archivist on the Yelland Analysis Library on the Hanover Space Historic Society.

In addition they, in accordance with meals historian William Woys Weaver, had complicated culinary traditions that mixed Previous World traditions with American improvements. Arduous pretzels are among the many most recognizable Pennsylvania Dutch meals. Originating in German-speaking Europe throughout medieval occasions, as soon as in Pennsylvania they turned a well-liked snack bought at markets and county gala’s — simple to make and, afterward, simple to provide in massive portions.

On show throughout the Utz manufacturing unit tour is an array of the corporate’s merchandise and tools circa the 1930s.

Shoshi Parks for NPR


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Shoshi Parks for NPR

On show throughout the Utz manufacturing unit tour is an array of the corporate’s merchandise and tools circa the 1930s.

Shoshi Parks for NPR

Though the connection between the Pennsylvania Dutch and the potato chip shaped extra not too long ago than the pretzel, the group nonetheless put its distinctive stamp on the snack meals. The potato chip exploded onto the American culinary scene in 1853 due to George Crum, a Saratoga Springs, N.Y., prepare dinner of African American and Native American heritage. The favored “Saratoga Chips” unfold shortly down the East Coast to Pennsylvania Dutch nation someday earlier than the flip of the century.

“Chipping potatoes” — potato varieties like Maris Piper, King Edwards and Rooster — which develop notably properly in York and Lancaster counties, made the uncooked supplies for the snack simply accessible. However lard was the actual cause that potato chips flourished in southern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies is rife with pork merchandise — scrapple, sausages, stuffed sow’s abdomen (hog maw) and, in fact, lard. Pastries and different fare cooked in lard is, in actual fact, so widespread in Pennsylvania Dutch nation that Dirk Burhans, creator of Crunch: A Historical past of the Nice American Potato Chip, refers to it because the “Lard Belt.”

Potato chips, too, obtained the lard therapy. Fried in pork fats, the potatoes turned arduous and crunchy, with a taste that could not be matched by vegetable oil. In accordance with Burhans, individuals went loopy for lard-fried chips made by corporations like Unique Good’s, King’s, and Zerbe’s. Even Hanover’s largest potato chip firm, Utz, nonetheless produces a lard-fried model known as Grandma Utz’s Handcooked Potato Chips.

Constructing a snack meals empire

If Pennsylvania Dutch heritage is the why of the “Snack Meals Capital,” Hanover, itself, is the how. In contrast to the extra conventional Amish and Mennonite subsects that populated neighboring Lancaster County, the small farm city of Hanover was populated by industrious Pennsylvania Dutch residents who had been keen adopters of mechanization and manufacturing unit manufacturing, in accordance with Muhlhausen. By the flip of the 20th century, regardless of a inhabitants of simply over 5,000 individuals, main industrial operations had developed from a constellation of native companies producing the whole lot from leather-based to furnishings to bricks. As Hanover industrialized, so too did the bakeries and meals corporations of the 19th century. By the 1940s and 1950s, early corporations like Olde Tyme Pretzels (right this moment’s Snyder’s of Hanover) had been modernizing manufacturing.

Snyder’s mid-century modernization was properly timed, intently mirroring a serious native transportation innovation: the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Till the Turnpike was constructed, says Weaver, “virtually each small city in Pennsylvania had its pretzel baker.” However as soon as full, transport meals merchandise to metro areas like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh turned extra environment friendly. Hanover’s snack meals corporations had been in an ideal place to capitalize not simply on the low price of rural labor, however on the truth that employees outdoors of metropolis facilities had been much less prone to unionize, Weaver explains.

Whereas American manufacturing went into decline by the late 20th century, progressive methods and a deep understanding of their loyal Mid-Atlantic shoppers, which stay the first shoppers of most Hanover snack meals, have saved these corporations not simply afloat, however thriving. Even Snyder’s, which sells its pretzels all around the world, is basically pushed by perception into the wants of its shoppers, in accordance with Chris Foley, chief advertising officer of Campbell Meals.

“The growth of the snack meals industries coincided with the decline of among the different manufacturing facilities throughout the latter a part of the 20th century,” Muhlhausen says. “The lucky impact for Hanover was continued and elevated employment for its industrious workforce.”

Right now, Hanover stays a middle of snack meals manufacturing, even because the meals business modifications round it. And whereas a few of its corporations have been folded into bigger operations, others, together with Utz, are nonetheless household owned and operated from city. “We’re making changes,” says the proprietor of Revonah Pretzels, Kevin Bidelspach. The corporate has discovered a distinct segment making pretzels by hand that can’t be duplicated by machines. “It is positively been a giant evolution because it began with individuals like us, however the handmade idea permits us to make a really specialised product. We’re not on the market making an attempt to have our pretzels in all places; our footprint is extra outlined.”

Regardless of competitors from international conglomerates, corporations like Revonah and Utz are “important parts” of Hanover, says Muhlhausen. Certainly, confirms lifelong Hanover resident Jane Kindon, the businesses are so interwoven into the material of the city that each she and her daughter attended college with two generations of snack meals households, and certainly one of her sons labored on the Snyder’s manufacturing unit. A field of “damaged” pretzels bought on a budget from the Wege manufacturing unit had been all the time readily available when her children had been younger.

“Due to the private connection, it is simply one thing we grew up with and … our youngsters grew up with them,” Kindon remembers. “However they’re good-paying jobs. I believe the persons are comfortable about them being right here.”

Shoshi Parks focuses on writing about journey, historical past and meals and her work has appeared in Smithsonian Journal, Fodor’s Journey, Atlas Obscura, Journey.com, Munchies, Civil Eats and YES! Journal. Discover extra of her work at http://www.shoshiparks.internet.

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