Michigan State researchers breed purple potato, make chips
East Lansing – Michigan State University researchers have reached their goal of breeding a purple potato, and now it’s being made into purple, kettle-cooked potato chips.
Dave Douches, director for the MSU Potato Breeding and Genetics program, and other researchers spent 20 years crossing potato varieties and testing to develop what they call the Blackberry potato.
The MSU potato program and Traverse City-based Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. partnered to produce the chips as a way to capitalize on the Blackberry potato and to celebrate the chip company’s 10th anniversary, the Lansing State Journal reported.
It does not taste sweet like a blackberry, but Douches said it makes a tasty potato chip.
“On average, if you close your eyes, they taste like a typical potato chip,” Douches said. “They’re a nice, crunchy chip.”
Douches began developing the potato after he found a hole in the potato market. There were other purple potatoes, but none of them had a deep purple color like the Blackberry potato.
The chips were sold in the Traverse City area, convenience stores at MSU, and locations in Ann Arbor and Detroit. Chris Girrbach, Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. president, said retailers quickly sold out, totaling about 4,500 packets.
“I didn’t think it would catch on this quick, but I knew it would be a great idea,” Girrbach said.
Before the chips hit the market, they received presidential approval.
President Barack Obama visited MSU in 2014 while the potato was still in the experimental stages and tried some. Douches said they were a hit with Obama.
Workers at Iott Farms in Kalkaska grow and harvest the Blackberry potatoes before they’re sent on to be processed into chips. Girrbach said they grew about 20,000 pounds (9071 kilograms) of potatoes and about 6,000 (2721 kilograms) were made into chips for the first run, Girrbach said.
Girrbach plans to cook and sell more chips next year.
“I think people really like the idea,” Girrbach noted. “It’s local, partnered with a local farmer and partnered with a top university in the country.”