Michigan State University partners to create limited-edition purple potato chips

The limited-edition purple potato chips from Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. are made from the Blackberry potato, the newest variety developed by Michigan State University's Potato Breeding and Genetics program.

East Lansing, Mich. — Purple potato chips could be on shelves at a grocery store near you, thanks to a collaboration between Michigan State University (MSU) researchers and Traverse City-based Great Lakes Potato Chip Co.

The chips are made from the Blackberry potato, the latest of more than 30 varieties developed by Dave Douches, director of the MSU Potato Breeding and Genetics Program. It took 20 years to breed the Blackberry potato.

purple potatoes cut in half and in bag
The Blackberry potato has a deep purple flesh and inside, but tastes just like a standard potato.

“I always saw that there was a need in the specialty market for a good purple-pigmented flesh variety of potato,” Douches said. “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.”

Chris Girrbach, president of Great Lakes Potato Chips, and Douches work with Iott Farms in Kalkaska, Michigan, to grow and harvest the Blackberry potatoes used for chip processing.

“Since we're a small producer, it's a little easier for us to do something like this,” Girrbach said.

MSU potato breeder Dave Douches eats purple potato chips with students
MSU potato breeder Dave Douches and his students purple potato chips made from Blackberry potatoes.

Girrbach said the purple potato chips serve as a thank you to the communities and Michigan agriculture partners who help support Great Lakes Potato Chips.

“Michigan growers are awesome,” he said. “MSU in particular puts a ton of research into potatoes; 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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