In the early 1950s, potato chips were quickly becoming a popular snack in the United States and Canada. Noticing the trend and discovering how profitable the sale of potato chips had become in New Brunswick, a handful of astute Valley entrepreneurs were convinced the snack had potential here and would find a ready market.
It turns out they were correct. As the story goes, in 1952 those businessmen somehow acquired a chip cooker and bagging machine from the States. Leasing an apple warehouse in Centreville they experimented with producing snack chips from various varieties of local potatoes. The entrepreneurs were M.W. Graves president John Shaffner (later to become lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia) Bridgetown businessmen Harry Smofsky, Dave Hicks and Raymond Bent and PEI potato broker Les Simmons.
Shaffner, it is said, came up with the idea to produce potato chips here after he observed how profitable it was becoming in New Brunswick. Not one of these gentlemen knew how to make or marketing potato chips but a total lack of experience didn’t stop them. The story of the five pioneering entrepreneurs, as taken from a brochure produced circa 1980, tells us that after a few setbacks, including a fire at the plant and some growing pains, they eventually were successful. “On a shoestring investment of $35,000 and a $20,000 government loan,” reads the brochure, Acadia Foods was founded (in 1952) and potato chips packaged in 5 cent bags, under the brand name Scotties, were soon rolling off the assembly line.
Scotties quickly became a snack staple and a household name in Nova Scotia. The chips were so popular that within a few years Acadia Foods found the Centreville plant wasn’t large enough to meet production demands. In 1959 a new plant was opened in New Minas. About a year later Acadia Foods was purchased by General Foods and Scotties was rebranded under Hostess Foods, a GF subsidiary. The Scotties brand eventually disappeared when Hostess Foods partnered with Frito-Lay (owned by PepsiCo) in 1987.
That’s the official version on the origin of Scotties potato chips, as spelled out in the 1980s brochure, but there may be more to the story. I’ve been told that a prominent farmer was the first to bring in the machinery required to manufacture and package potato chips in Kings County and his operation was eventually taken over by what was to become Acadia Foods. While I’ve been told this by several reliable sources, I’ve been unable to confirm it.
Meanwhile, there was another attempt to produce and market potato chips in Kings County. The company was called Glendale Foods and the product was Tom Thumb potato chips. I believe the business started in Sheffield Mills or in Canning. If any readers are familiar with the history of the company I’d like to hear from them.