Tater Tot Day Special: The Logistics of Tots

Feb 2, 2024

Feb. 2nd marks National Tater Tot Day — as if you didn’t already know.

Ore-Ida’s F. Nephi Grigg initially conceived of the humble tater tot in 1953. Eyeing heaps of potato shavings leftover from converting the irregularly-shaped tubers into frozen french fries, the company’s co-founder (correctly) mused these might be extremely delicious if seasoned, battered and fried (until that point, the shavings were reportedly sold as livestock feed).

The product, named as a playful reference to “potato babies,” hit shelves in 1954 less than two years after the entrepreneurial Grigg brothers opened Ore-Ida for business looking to capitalize on America’s post-WWII obsession with frozen dinners. Though initially met with consumer skepticism due to bargain-basement prices and the perception of being little more than leftover scraps, tots quickly rose to the status of American culinary staple after the Grigg brothers simply raised the price.

The product’s increase in perceived value, along with picky eaters’ willingness to consume tots by the handful, boosted Ore-Ida’s share of the U.S. frozen potato market to 25% by 1960.

Now more than 70 years removed from Tater tots’ ingenious inception, the annual U.S. consumption of deep-fried, grated potato products allegedly hovers near 3.7 billion tots* — or roughly 70 million pounds (35,000 tons) per year.

*Figure appears to originate in this now-archived 2007 report, then cited in 2011’s “Fast Food & Junk Food: An Encyclopedia of What We Love to Eat.” Though 70M lbs is often reported as a current annual figure, factors like population growth, imitation products and rapidly evolving eating habits make it difficult to accurately gauge today’s total tot consumption.

From Taters to Tots

“Tater Tot” is a famously genericized product — a product we often refer to generally despite it being trademarked — often mimicked by imitators in both its production and commercial use (don’t worry, the golden opportunity to pounce on “imi-taters” as an advertising tactic was not lost on Ore-Ida’s marketing team).

Whether authentic or an imitation, the process of producing tots has come a long way since the Grigg brothers’ early days of reconfiguring a prune sorter to eliminate unwanted potato shards. Today’s production begins with sourcing quality potatoes from local farms — Ore-Ida itself is a reference to the company’s home base near the Oregon-Idaho border, a central location for the area farms supplying Ore-Ida’s processing facility with shipments of spuds.

From there, you can probably guess what the facility’s automated factory floor looks like; freshly-washed potatoes are fed via conveyor belt into industrial large steel rotary peelers, then shaved into small fragments and molded into cylinders by machines. The cylinders are then seasoned, battered, fried to a crisp and flash-frozen for preservation.

Bags of frozen tots then make their way to school cafeterias and fine-dining establishments across the country — homemade tots are by and large considered a massive, time-intensive pain — for use in fancy gourmet dishes, casseroles, nachos, or simply baked and served as a universally embraced comfort food.

Shipping Frozen Foods

As you might have guessed by now, it’s in the safe transportation of these frozen food items where First Call makes its mark. The average household probably doesn’t concern themselves with the intricacies of maintaining a product’s cold chain integrity; but it will notice if tomorrow night’s tater tot casserole appears mushy or spoiled.

That’s how partnering with our team fits into the picture. At First Call, we’ve specialized in moving frozen foods and produce since our earliest beginnings, positively impacting the lives and brand experiences of thousands of customers through reliable, experienced logistics partnerships.

Ensure your frozen freight gets to its destination on time, in full and uncompromised by contacting an FCL team member today.

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