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How Utz Became Baltimore’s Favorite Chip

Welcome to the final segment of our exclusive three-part series on iconic local brands.

This series has explored the famous Smyth Jeweler’s billboard featuring Mr. Boh of National Bohemian Beer and Salie Utz of Utz potato chips. 

If you missed the first two articles, feel free to catch up before reading on…read part one on Smyth and part two on Natty Boh.

In a nutshell, I’ve always admired the marketing strategy that brought these three brands together. The billboard has been a part of Baltimore’s history since 2007.

How does Salie Utz fit into this marketing puzzle? After all, Utz is manufactured in Hanover, PA. While that may not be too far off geographically, National Bohemian was brewed in Baltimore for over a century, and Smyth Jewelers recently celebrated 100 years in Maryland.

No offense, Utz, but how do you fit in?

Let’s take a quick trip back in time to find out how Utz became the official snack food of Baltimore…

The following comes straight from Utz’s website:

“The Utz Story begins in a small town kitchen in 1921. William and Salie Utz began producing Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips in Hanover, PA, in their summer kitchen, cooking about 50 pounds of chips an hour. They sold those fresh chips to small local grocers and markets, primarily in the Baltimore, MD, area.”

“In 1930, the first section of the Utz plant was built on McAlister Street in the rear of Bill & Salie Utz’s home.”

The company continued to expand, adding new buildings, equipment and employees over the next several decades. In the 1980s, Utz began serving customers in Virginia and Delaware and expanded to serve customers throughout the United States in the 1990s.

“Today, Utz is the largest independent, privately held snack brand in United States.”

Well, that explains why the chips are so popular here in Maryland (and up and down the East Coast). That also helps explain why the MGH advertising agency chose Salie Utz as Mr. Boh’s bride-to-be.

Utz is a staple here in Baltimore. Salie Utz is as easily recognizable as Natty Boh, The Oriole Bird or Poe, the Ravens’ mascot. Utz played to its regional customers, creating Crab Chips flavored with Chesapeake Bay Crab Seasoning that are to die for (I always thought they were flavored with Old Bay, but apparently that distinction belongs to Herr’s potato chips).

As we all know by now, Mr. Boh proposed to Salie Utz in 2007, and the couple were married in 2011. You can watch a 30-second clip of the courtship, engagement and nuptials here.

Photo courtesy of TheEveningSun.com

Just like Natty Boh, Utz made a move out of Baltimore that actually alienated fans, causing some to go so far as boycotting the snack altogether. In 2010, the “Snack On” neon sign left for Philadelphia after a decade in Baltimore. That same year, Utz teamed up with the New York Yankees, bitter rivals of our beloved Baltimore Orioles. This angered many fans, as highlighted in these excerpts from Baltimore Magazine – Utz: You’re Dead to Utz – and The Baltimore Sun – Et tu, Utz? It’s not hard to gather the general consensus of these articles by title alone, but feel free to give them a read (I found them quite humorous, though at the time I would have been furious!).

The fling was short-lived, though, as Salie left the Yankees in 2012 (coincidentally, the O’s made the playoffs that year!). Utz now sponsors the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals and Pittsburg Pirates. Utz is the official snack of the Baltimore Ravens and is even producing special Ravens-themed projects.

In 2014, Utz supplanted Frito-Lay as the “exclusive provider of potato chips, tortilla chips and pretzels at M&T Bank Stadium concession stands” for the Baltimore Ravens.

I, for one, welcome Salie back with open arms (and an open mouth!). I love Utz chips, Natty Boh beer and my wife loves her engagement ring from Smyth’s (meaning I love Smyth’s too – a happy wife means a happy life!).

It was a stroke of genius bringing these three seemingly unrelated products together into one huge marketing campaign. Smyth was looking to attract the 20-30-year-old demographic, and succeeded by linking its product with a popular local beer and snack food company.

Photo courtesy of YouTube.com

It wasn’t just Smyth that benefitted. This campaign thrust all three companies into the spotlight for years (I’m still writing about a billboard that debuted eight years ago!).

I hope I was able to shed some light on the Smyth/Natty Boh/Utz connection for you. I learned a lot about each company, and it was just another example of how a good marketing team with fresh ideas can build your brand and boost your sales.

If you want to put your brand in the spotlight, just give us a call! We’ll be more than happy to grab a beer and some chips and brainstorm with you!

Sources:

www.utzsnacks.com

www.store.utzsnacks.com

www.baltimoremagazine.net/2010/5/6/utz-youre-dead-to-utz?p=presscheck/2010/05/utz-youre-dead-to-utz

www.weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/dining/reviews/blog/2010/05/utz_potato_chips_yankees.html

www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2014/04/28/baltimore-ravens-utz-sign-sponsorship-deal.html

www.baltimoreravens.com/ravenstown/contests/utz-find-the-code.html

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n3fPqhwMnA

www.herrsstore.com/newheoldbayp.html

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utz_Quality_Foods

www.articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-05-11/news/bal-natty-boh-and-utz-girl-to-tie-the-knot-20110511_1_natty-boh-long-distance-romance-billboard-contract

www.inyork.com/business/ci_14757970