Written by Brooke Strickland for The Idaho Business Review
Originally Published 11/17/2021
There are a lot of ‘cool’ things made in Idaho, but there is one company that stands apart this year. Idaho Manufacturing Alliance (IMA) recently congratulated the Atomic Potato Chip Company for winning this year’s Coolest Thing Made in Idaho contest.
Sponsored by Idaho Power, with support from TechHelp Idaho and the Idaho National Laboratory, the IMA’s goal with the contest is to spotlight products that are being made in Idaho, while promoting the manufacturing industry and helping companies expand brand awareness. The contest is completely virtual, with promotion primarily on Facebook and Instagram, with some buzz on LinkedIn and Twitter.
“This is the second year for the contest,” said Sheri Johnson, executive director of IMA. “We launched it last year after seeing other states do somethign similar. Since we couldnt’ do our normal promotional events because of COVID, we wanted another way to spotlight Idaho Manufacturing Month and the state’s great ‘makers.'”
The contest received 76 nominations of 52 unique products this year. Final round votes tallied to over 2,600.
The winner: husband-and-wife-owned company, Atomic Potato Chips.
Runners up were Nex-Gem3 by Idaho Steel and CMMS Appliance Kit by Critical Machine Parts, and finalists included Hybrid Cyclorotor Drone by Pitch Aeronautics, Xtreme Tactical Tender by BME Fire Trucks, and several more.
“The IMA loves the passion that Atomic Potato Chips has for excellence in potato chips,” Johnson said. “They had a dream and they made it happen! Their flavors sound amazing; they definitely have a niche in their field. We can’t wait to try them out!”
Johnson explained that while 8.1% of Idaho’s total employment comes from manufacturing jobs, the contest is helping the manufacturing field gain some attention in Idaho.
She said, “We can look at our social media and website analytics and see that a lot of folks who wouldn’t normally clue into anything else related ot Idaho manufacturing will stop and browse when presented with unique products in a fun environment (i.e. the contest). We love hearing people comment ‘We didn’t know that was made in Idaho!’ and often we answer, ‘Neither did we.'”
As for Atomic Potato Chips, the owners are excited about what the win means for their business. They started only four years ago, with three of those years testing on friends and family from their home kitchen in Blackfoot. In January of this year, they signed a lease on a commercial kitchen in Arco, and the rest is history.
Today, they sell directly to the public at local farmers’ markets and from their kitchen. They also sell at local events, festivals and shows around Idaho, and have an online selling platform. The duo crafts fresh potato chips in 14 flavors, including plain unsalted, aged cheddar jalapeno and buttery garlic sweet onion. They blend flavors in-house and can create fresh-made potato chips with flavors that have never been seen before.
“You can walk in and say, ‘I like mine with more bite,’ or ‘I don’t like it hot’ and we can accommodate you on the spot,” said Joanna Tarner, co-owner of Atomic Potato Chips. “We are not about just the masses, but the individuals, also.”
Looking ahead, Tarner explains that winning this contest will help them work toward their company growth goals.
“This win means exposure for us, first and foremost,” said Tarner. “With being so little and in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere (literally), we are always looking for ways to bring exposure to our business and town. Running in this competition was pefect for that.”
Since everythign is done by hand right now and is very labor intensive, the duoa at Atomic Potato Chips is hoping to work toward more of an automated system in the future. Thyey also want to open a storefront.
Tarner said, “As far as new products, we fly by the seat of our pants. You never know what flavors we are coming up with next. Stay tuned.”