Munching on potato chips is an American past-time, and while a few “big brands” have a clear advantage in today’s market, there are still plenty of regional varieties — whether old favorites or new, small-batch brands like Humpty Dumpty chips, featured here — that reflect the tastes of local consumers and have become beloved classic New England foods.
So why the potato chip obsession? According to The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, home recipes for fried “potato shavings” began appearing in cookbooks as early as 1824, but the product’s fragility made it hard to package and transfer. During the 1930s and 1940s better packaging led to increasing potato chip popularity, but it wasn’t until the 1950s, when television commercials began promoting salty snacks with gusto, that potato chips and their peanut, popcorn, and pretzel cousins really took off. As a snacking nation, we’ve never looked back.
Humpty Dumpty is often cited as Maine’s favorite (and yes, also bargain) potato chip brand, getting its start in South Portland, Maine, as The Humpty Dumpty Potato Chips Company, Inc. back in 1947. The company changed hands a few times over the years, most notably in 2000 when it was sold to a Canadian snack company before its current owner, Old Dutch Foods, took over in 2006. With flavors like Ketchup, Dill Pickle, Salt & Vinegar, BBQ, plus the popular Sour Cream & Clam and All-Dressed flavors, Humpty Dumpty’s US sales are limited almost exclusively to Maine, and yet, the brand maintains a loyal and enthusiastic following among Mainers and the many folks who visit the Pine Tree state each year.
Having only ever tried the Humpty Dumpty Ketchup variety on trips to Acadia National Park during my college days, I hit up a few convenience stores during a recent trip to Maine for a few new Humpty Dumpty chip flavors to try. While I was disappointed that I couldn’t find the Sour Cream & Clam variety, I did manage to pick up both the Dill Pickle and the All Dressed flavors.
The Dill Pickle variety wasn’t for me (the first sour whiff of the opened bag was like a punch in the nose)…
…but the All Dressed was better, a ridged “everything” chip flavored like (as the label kind of illustrates) barbecue sauce, ketchup, and salt & vinegar. Hearty in texture thanks to the ripples the Dill Pickle chips lacked, the BBQ/ketchup flavor is the first thing you’ll taste, but the tang of the salt & vinegar rounds out the flavor, and the result is (for me, at least) pretty addictive.
I should note that Ruffles also makes an “All Dressed” variety, but it’s only available in Canada, so if you’re curious to try an “everything chip,” you’ll have to head to Maine, get a local to mail you some, or (of course) turn to the internet.
Even if Humpty Dumpty chips aren’t your favorite regional potato chip brand, when you rip open a bag (perhaps alongside a cold can of Moxie and a red snapper hot dogs), you can at least pat yourself on the back for continuing a nearly 70 year Maine tradition!
Are you a fan of Humpty Dumpty chips?
This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.