Factory Field Trip: No Superhero Sightings

Yesterday’s day-off-from-school family event was a trek to the Herr’s Snack Factory in Nottingham, Pennsylvania. The trip was short (an hour and 15 minutes from our city of Dover, DE), and it was organized by the leader of my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I’d definitely recommend the tour, especially for school-age kids. In case you’re curious, I’ve put together the following highlights reel:

The members of our group comprised a five vehicle, interstate Girl Scout Mom caravan, which begs the question, does careening into the school’s drop off lane on two wheels every morning signify a general propensity to open it up on the highway?

Our February 16th visit coincided with Presidents Day, which was appropriate, because who among us could not in truth confess, “I cannot tell a lie; I ate the entire bag of salt and vinegar chips all by myself.”

As evidenced by the large sign at the factory’s entrance, our February visit also coincided with National Snack Food Month, which, by the way, shares its twelfth of the annual pie with National Electrical Safety Awareness Month, National Termite Awareness Month, and National Pet Dental Health Awareness Month. In related news, Congress’s efforts to designate June as National “If I have to, I’m going to open this nacho chip bag with my teeth” Month have been delayed significantly by the recent passage of the federal stimulus package.

Thankfully, the super clean factory environment showed no evidence of gamma radiation-laced Hulk blood dripping onto the conveyor belts or the factory floor as it did in last summer’s feature film.

Were an incognito Bruce Banner to be working at the factory, though, the answer to his anger management problem—a foamy, to scale, Herr’s-themed stress potato—is available for $3.99 at the gift shop.

Also available at the gift shop are reduced price “oops”-labeled products. According to the tour guide, a bag might be resold under the “oops” label due to over- or underseasoning or other issues—again, no mention of gamma ray contamination, but you never can be too careful.

In the quirky factoids department, the tour did not disappoint. Did you know that Herr’s Extra Thin Pretzels start off life as part of a 300 pound ball of pretzel dough? And that an employee at Herr’s can eat as many snacks as he or she wants while at the plant, and may take home one bag of snacks per week? (Unfortunately, at this writing, no stats were available on the weight of the average Herr’s employee, but my observation was that they were remarkably slim.)

The Herr’s factory is a model for industrial recycling, as it captures the heat from its fryers to warm the factory’s water, resells the starch byproduct from the potato chip process to a paper manufacturer, and uses bags that have accidentally opened or fallen on the factory floor as feed for a Herr’s owned cattle operation. Perhaps this zeal for repurposing is what gave birth to the Herr’s Ketchup-flavored Potato Chips; it was either that, or some decision-maker over-exposed himself to barbecue chip fumes.

By far, our biggest treat of the day was crispy, hot potato chips fresh out of the fryer.

The biggest disappointment? No pretzel-twisting oompah-loompahs.

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