Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Better Made Snack Food Company

Known for their potato chips, the Better Made Snack Food Company has been a Detroit institution since 1930. Better Made is the lone survivor of the potato chip companies that sprang up in the early decades of the twentieth century, in a city that devours the snack.

Created in 1853, the potato chip did not catch on as a snack food until after World War I. The origin of Better Made varies depending on the family member relating it, according to historian Karen Dybis. In one account, the Best Maid potato chip company, founded in 1929 by Ernest Nicolay and Russell Dancey, hired Cross Moceri as a salesman. Best Maid became New Era and Moceri left to form his own company with Peter Cipriano. The two had been making chips at home after their day jobs. New Era would become Better Made’s chief competitor over the years.

Whatever preceded, in 1930, two entrepreneurial Detroiters and Sicilian immigrants, Cross Moceri and Peter Cipriano, became partners in a potato chip business first known as Cross & Peters Company. Their Better Made chip brand was established in 1934, playing off the name of Best Maid.

The business moved from its home operation to East McDougall Street where their success took hold. The company had retail branches throughout the city, some next door to movie theaters, at a time when concession stands were unknown. Chips were first sold in hand-stapled bags of waxed paper, sometimes hawked door-to-door or from stands on Belle Isle. In the mid-1940s the company moved to a spot on Woodward Avenue near the Fox Theatre. After World War II, needing room for expansion, they settled into their current location on Gratiot Avenue between Harper Avenue and French Road.

At one time there were over 20 potato chip manufacturers in Detroit. The New Era company merged with Frito in 1958, who merged with Lay in 1961. To compete with national brands, Better Made produced its first flavored chip, barbecue, in 1973, with a sour cream chip & onion chip following. Over time Better Made has diversified its products, offering different cuts in numerous flavors. The plant also makes several types of corn chips, pork rinds, popcorn, pretzels, cheese puffs, dips and salsas.

Better Made relies on quality ingredients of potatoes, salt and cottonseed oil, and freshness. Their products can be bought directly from the factory, just hours old, or have them shipped anywhere in the world. Better Made processes over 60 million pounds of potatoes annually, in a process that transforms them into chips in approximately seven minutes.



"Recipes and Party Ideas Starring Potato Chips" by Better Made Snack Food Co.

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