Potatoes are arguably one of the most versatile vegetables. They come in the form of fries, hash browns, and, mashed. You can use them as a base for a quiche or a topping for a pizza– the possibilities are endless, and we haven’t even mentioned chips yet.
Rumor has it the potato chip was invented by a cook named George Crum in 1853. Frustrated when a customer repeatedly returned an order of fries for being too thick, Crum sliced the new batch as thin as he could and fried them to perfection.
But it took another invention before chips would become the wildly popular snack we know and love today. It wasn’t until the 1920s, when Californian entrepreneur Laura Scudder started sealing wax paper bags with a warm iron, that chips found a home. Now chip salesmen could easily transport the fragile snacks without turning them to crumbs.
While the bags were designed to protect thin potato chips, yet another innovation would eventually make chips themselves sturdier. Dating back hundreds of years, ruffles would make their way from fashion to paper and, finally, to potatoes. How could one design traverse so many industries?
Well, it all started with ruffled lace collars in the 16th century. Noting the height caused by the structure of the folds, two Englishmen applied pleats to paper and used it as lining for men’s tophats in the 1850s. The technique was then mimicked in 1871 by an American man named Albert L. Jones, who used corrugated, or pleated, paper for wrapping fragile glass items.
Why is it Called Ruffles?
And in 1955, nearly 100 years later, another inventor named Bernhardt Stahmer filed a U.S. patent for sliced, corrugated potato products. According to the patent, Stahmer “spent a considerable amount of time, effort and money in developing a new corrugated potato product which is sold under the trademark Ruffles.”
Much like the pleated paper and ruffled lace, the corrugated ridges on these chips made them sturdier, crunchier and better suited for dipping. Able to withstand more weight, they were less likely to break in the bag or in the middle of a dip. Plus the ridges also created more cavities to hold filling.
Presumably, Stahmer named his company Ruffles after the fashionable ruffle, or gathering of fabric to create folds, that inspired innovation across several industries.
It didn’t take long for potato chip mogul C.E. Doolin, who acquired the recipe for Fritos in 1932, to recognize the potential of Ruffles. The Frito Company purchased the Ruffles trademark from Stahmer in 1958, and has been shouting ‘Ruffles have ridges!’ from the rooftops ever since.
But the potato takeover didn’t stop there. The Frito Company merged with H.W. Lay & Co in 1961 to become Frito-Lay, which merged again with Pepsi-Cola to form PepsiCo in 1965. Since then, only two things have changed about Ruffles: the number of flavors available and the depth of the ridges.
In 2012, after intense research and development, PepsiCo unveiled Ruffles Ultimate, and “Rather than make the chips thicker, they hit upon the idea of giving snackers a more three-dimensional experience by making chips with a more pronounced corrugation pattern—with ridges twice as deep as the typical Ruffles chip.”
Even then, their patented slicing technology generated more than 5,000 chips per minute. If you ask us, that’s a lot of Ruffles. Thanks for reading Why is Ruffles called Ruffles! What’s your favorite Ruffles flavor? Comment below! #whyisitcalledRuffles.
Annelise Schoups is a contributor at Rewind & Capture. With a degree in journalism, experience in public relations, and an education in travel, she is passionate about cultivating knowledge and storytelling.