Handing out chips at the Terry’s manufacturing facility in Bristol Friday is Pam Herman, with Sandra Hawkins in the background. Rick Wagner photo.
BRISTOL, Va. — The cheese puffs are back, along with the barbecue chips, tomato chips and dill chips.
Those and other iconic Terry’s products will be back on a local grocer’s shelves in time for the Super Bowl. And they’re being made in the same city where they and competitor Moore’s snacks used to be made.
Food City and Snack Alliance Inc. have teamed up to bring back the Terry’s brand, once a regional snack food in the Southeast.
It’s the second in what Food City’s Steve Smith — president and chief executive officer of Food City’s Abingdon-based parent company K-VA-T Food Stores — said may be a growing line of reborn regional food items. It follows the reintroduction of Kay’s Ice Cream last year.
The effort is to “bring back great, proud regional brands,” Smith said during a news conference at the SAI plant at 225 Commonwealth Ave.
In less than a year, the Kay’s brand has grown to account for 20 percent of Food City’s ice cream sales, and Smith said he has hope for a similar result for Terry’s.
Like Kay’s, Smith said the Terry’s products will be sold exclusively in the 95 Food City stores, which Smith said would grow to 100 stores by year’s end. He said the brand will continue the Terry’s tradition of fresh, quality products.
The initial order was 10 tractor-trailer loads of product, or about 10,000 bags. But Smith wouldn’t rule out an eventual larger rollout for Terry’s in other markets or stores or the addition of other Terry’s products, depending on demand.
Reporters, city officials and Bristol Chamber of Commerce officials attended a news conference in a warehousing area of the plant before taking a tour of the plant, sampling still-warm plain potato chips from employee Pam Herman as employee Sandra Hawkins looked over the product.
Smith said his favorite was probably the cheese puffs and that Food City and SAI officials met with John Terry, whose family owned the Terry’s brand, to get tips on recipes, spices and production.
“They (SAI officials) proved to us they could recreate the formulas of Terry’s chips,” Smith said.
“Our goal is to be sure we will have the product ready to go by Super Bowl weekend.”
SAI adds the Terry’s line to its growing production.
“This is one of the most productive snack food plants in the nation,” said Pat Lindenbach, chairman of the Washington state-based Snack Alliance.
He said production of the Snack Alliance’s riceworks, a brown rice-based chip, is going around the clock seven days a week to supply the United States, Great Britain, Mexico and the Philippines.
He said the goal was to make Snack Alliance the first national private label snack food producer, and it makes snack food for Wal-Mart worldwide.
SAI in December 2004 purchase of the 100,000-square-foot plant from Wise Foods, which used to produce the Moore’s brand there but shut down the plant and moved it elsewhere three years ago.
The plant stood idle for about 30 days after Wise ceased production in 2004, but Lindenbach said most of the 75 employees working there took jobs with Snack Alliance, which reconfigured the operation that was first set up in the 1960s.
“Today, they’re producing that (Terry’s) brand for their friends,” Lindenbach said.
“This brand has helped bring back the magic to the plant,” said Lindenbach. “Food City is a very remarkable engine of growth for this community.”
The plant has grown to employ 150 and should grow from the Terry’s production, but Lindenbach and Smith said the number of new jobs for Snack Alliance is unknown.
Smith said Terry’s fits into the “buy local” philosophy that Food City also uses in produce. In July and August, he said 18 percent of produce sold at Food City stores came from area farmers in Kentucky, Virginia or Tennessee.
And, he pointed out, back in September Food City and the Scott County Hair Sheep Project marked the $1 million mark in lamb sold at Food City stores.