Nearly a dozen wide-eyed children put their faces to the glass as they watched potatoes move along a conveyor belt and become snacks.

Though they might have had Utz potato chips before, it was the first time they learned how they're made.

The 11 kids were visiting the Utz Quality Foods Inc. factory with adult members of Hope Baptist Church in Hanover.

"We wanted them to see how potato chips are made. It's fascinating how quickly the whole process takes place," said Karen Harris, a church member and Hanover resident.

Within a few minutes, potatoes move from a truck onto an assembly line where machines peel, slice, cook them into chips, sort and package them. A combination of workers and machinery also remove the defective or broken chips and keep the line moving properly.

An Utz Quailty Foods production crew works Wednesday, the opening day for Made in America tours.
An Utz Quailty Foods production crew works Wednesday, the opening day for Made in America tours. (Hannah Byrne photo)

Guests who visit the York County factory can see the whole process during a self-guided, 60-minute tour from an enclosed catwalk that lines the side of the potato chip plant.

Made in America: While Utz offers free tours all year, this week the manufacturer is a stop on the annual Made in America tours, which are hosted by the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau and offer a behind-the-scenes look inside local businesses.

The snack maker is one of 27 local businesses opening its doors to visitors this week. Other stops on the tour include farms, heavy manufacturers, food makers, wineries and shops. For a complete list, visit www.factorytours.org.

"People are very interested in how things are made. Until they come here, they usually think making potato chips is a lot more complicated than it is. We often hear people say they're surprised by how fast it happens," said Chuck Tullis, vice president for Utz brands.

Just as the tour gives consumers a chance to learn more about what they're eating, it gives Utz a chance to reach more consumers.

"It's good for them and good for us because they're building more of a connection with our brand," he said.

Once the potato chips are bagged, they're put in cardboard cases and loaded onto delivery trucks bearing the red, white and blue Utz logo.

Ravens' deal: Soon, the Baltimore Ravens logo will be added to those trucks as part of the snackmaker's new deal as the exclusive provider of pretzel, potato chips and tortilla chips at M&T Bank Stadium.

On Aug. 4, four new, Ravens-themed snacks will hit the shelves in time for football season.

But the best seller is still the traditional potato chips like those the tourists saw being made on Wednesday, Tullis said.

Following the tour, Dave Schaszberger said he can be counted among the shoppers who prefer the traditional potato chips.

"I'm old fashioned I guess. I prefer the original to all the other flavors out there," the Spring Grove resident said.

The tours are an annual tradition for him, and he usually brings along his wife and grandchildren, he said.

"We love showing the kids and seeing their faces when they see the chips being made," Schaszberger said.

Another tradition is stopping at the Utz Factory Outlet Store at 861 Carlisle St. in Hanover.

"We always go there at the end of the tour and let the kids pick some snacks. It's a cheap trip and a real family tradition for us," he said.

— Reach Candy Woodall at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.