Purple potato chips

Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. is selling limited-edition chips made from Michigan State University-developed blackberry potatoes grown at Iott Farms in Kalkaska.

TRAVERSE CITY — Purple potato chips — made from a round, deep purple potato variety that took 20 years to develop — are helping a local company mark its 10-year anniversary.

Purple Potato Chips with Sea Salt, made by the Great Lakes Potato Chip Co., now are available for a limited time.

“They are on the shelves currently at Tom’s and Oleson’s locally,” said Shawn Burks, operations manager at Great Lakes Potato Chip Co.

The limited-edition chips — also available online at www.greatlakespotatochips.com — are being sold in 5-ounce bags rather than Great Lakes’ normal 8-ounce bags, Burks said.

The purple-pigmented potatoes popped through the company’s production paraphernalia, with a pinch of prior preparation.

“We just had to fuss with them a little,” Burks said. “They’re a little different size.”

Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. has been in business for a decade.

“We wanted to do something unique to celebrate our 10th anniversary,” company President Chris Girrbach said in a release. “We thought purple potato chips would be a good way to highlight all the work MSU does and the growers that helped us get started.”

Other varieties of purple potatoes long have been available. But the particular variety used to make the Great Lakes chips has been in development for two decades.

Dave Douches, director of the Michigan State University Potato Breeding and Genetics Program, said the blackberry potato is the latest of more than 30 potato varieties he has developed.

“I always saw that there was a need in the specialty market for a good purple-pigmented flesh variety of potato,” Douches said in the release. “There were some old varieties around in the past that I felt didn’t really serve the market well, so we made an effort to try to improve on that.

“We were trying to find ones that had a round shape rather than a long shape, and also ones that had some disease resistance, as well as a deeper purple flesh color.”

Blackberry potatoes also contain more antioxidants than standard potato varieties, Douches said.

The potatoes used to make the purple Great Lakes chips were grown at Iott Farms in Kalkaska.

“MSU in particular puts a ton of research into potatoes,” Girrbach said. “They work so hard to do stuff like this. I just hope people see how fun the research can be and how important growing it is.”

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