Were Tater Tots Invented As a Way to Deal With Factory Waste?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to cuisine (chefs, dishes, etc.) and whether they are true or false.

CUISINE URBAN LEGEND: Tater tots were invented as a way to deal with factory leftovers.

Ahhhhh….tater tots.

Whether it be in a school cafeteria, a diner or even in the film, Napoleon Dynamite…

…tater tots (which are fried shredded potatoes) seem to be most everywhere.

An interesting fact about tater tots is that Tater Tot is actually a registered trademark of Ore Ida, the company that invented tater tots. That’s why you’ll see that other companies will call their versions of this food stuff like Tasti Taters or Tater Treats or Spud Puppies or whatever.

However, even more interesting is how this food was created in the first place!!

The food company Ore-Ida was formed in 1922 by two Idaho farmers who opened up a processing factory in nearby Oregon (hence the Ore-Ida name, Oregon and Idaho).

The company became a popular manufacturer of potatoes and, more importantly, french fries.

As time went by, the company realized that they were dealing with a great deal of run-off from their production of french fries. At the end of the day, they would have a bunch of potato slivers left over. So that led to a challenge – what to do with these slivers of potatoes?

In 1953, a solution was devised (I don’t know if they tried anything beforehand) – they would chop the slivers up, add flour and seasoning to the chopped potatoes, then they would push them through holes and slice off the cube-like material that would come out the other side, fry it up and ta da – Tater Tots!!

Today, amazingly enough, this product developed as a means of dealing with leftovers has become Ore-Ida’s most well known product (and a challenger for its highest selling product)!!!

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

3 Replies to “Were Tater Tots Invented As a Way to Deal With Factory Waste?”

  1. Clutch – Single, no kids, graying at temples and a bit overweight. I'm an Aries, a romantic, a naive idealist, temperamental and passionate about love and justice, a lapsed Catholic who dwells more on the spiritual and altruistic aspects of religion. Neither fully liberal nor conservative, I am a progressive, be it politics or rock music. Born in NYC. Raised in Cadiz, Spain from 1974 to 1981. Living in Anaheim off and on since 1973, 1981, 1989. Some former stomping grounds: Miami and Chicago/Woodridge from 1984 to 1989. Inspirational folks: Presidents Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Carter, Barack Obama, statesmen Benjamin Franklin, Dean Acheson, Bob La Follette, Henry Wallace, Ted Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chafee, Clement Attle, Lester Pearson, Bob Hawke, justices Louis Brandeis, William O. Douglas, Earl Warren, William J. Brennan, philosopher Bertrand Russell, economist Paul Krugman, Historian Eugen Weber, and Popes Leo XIII, John XXIII, John Paul I, John Paul II, Francis. Interests include: Reading, writing, net surfing, blogging, history, politics, geography, photography, collecting 70's, 80's, and some modern comic books, old and new action figures, watching 60's to 90's TV series, classic U.S. and British science fiction, and anything vintage. Favorite artists include illustrators/painters Earl Norem, Gene Day, Joe Jusko, Michael Netzer, John Byrne, Grant Miehm, Bob Larkin, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Brett Breeding, George Perez, Russ Heath, Neal Adams, Mike Vosburg, Brian Bolland, Bob Layton, Herb Trimpe, Geoff Isherwood, Bob McLeod, Greg LaRocque, Ian Akin & Brian Garvey, classical painters Gustave Caillebotte, James Tissot, Auguste Toulmouche, Edward Steichen, Gustave Courbet, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and Edmund Gray, glamour photographers Stephen Wayda, Richard Fegley, Arny Freytag, Pompeo Posar, Frank Eck, and Byron Newman. Movies: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More, A Fistful of Dollars, Things Change, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, In the Heat of the Night, Amadeus, Twelve Angry Men, The Shawshank Redemption, Magnum Force, The Wild Bunch, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Sling Blade, Le Professionnel, White Heat, Commando, Robocop, Enter the Dragon, The Best Years of Our Lives, F/X, Tron, Logan's Run, Most Bond films from Connery to Dalton, Scarface, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Reservoir Dogs, Armageddon, Goodfellas, Love Potion #9, Predator, Jaws, Beverly Hills Cop, North by Northwest, Bambi, Inception, Seven Samurai, Umberto D., The 400 Blows, Love on the Run, The Defiant Ones, The Great Escape, Stalag 17, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Harry and Tonto, The Killing Fields, The Untouchables, Picnic. Music: 70's and 80's rock, classic jazz, soul, Bossa Nova, R&B, pop, disco, progressive rock, 80's and 90's smooth jazz. From A-Z: Artists include The Alan Parsons Project, Ambrosia, America, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Barbra Streisand, Bee Gees, Bill Conti, Billy Goldenberg, Boston, Bread, Chicago, Chuck Mangione, Christopher Cross, Commodores, Crusaders, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Dave Grusin, David Gates, Doobie Brothers, Don Henley, Earl Klugh, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Elmer Bernstein, England Dan and John Ford Coley, Ennio Morricone, Fattburger, Fleetwood Mac, George Benson, Genesis, Gino Vanelli, Glenn Frey, Godley & Creme, Herb Alpert, Huey Lewis, Isaac Hayes, Jefferson Starship, John Cavacas, J.S. Bach, Journey, Kansas, Kenny Loggins, Kool & The Gang, Level 42, Lionel Richie, Little River Band, Madonna, Manhattan Transfer, Marvin Gaye, Michael Franks, Michael McDonald, Mr. Mister, Nat King Cole, Odyssey, Orleans, The Outfield, Patti Austin, Peaches & Herb, The Police, Richie Havens, Robert Palmer, Roberta Flack, Sadao Watanabe, Simply Red, Stan Getz, The Stylistics, Tears For Fears, The Temptations, Toto, Zager & Evans, 10cc and untold others. Books: Politics, biographies, WWII and military, world history, English and Spanish poetry, art, Impressionist paintings, photography, illustration, advertising, pin-up, hardcover and trade paperback comic book reprint collections. Authors: Gene L. Coon, Robert Holmes, Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks, Jack Finney, Jules Verne. Poets: Robert Frost, Luis Mario, Jorge Luis Borges, Jose Batres Montúfar, Jose Angel Buesa, José Agustín Balseiro, Arturo Doreste, Juan Guzmán Cruchaga, Jose Maria Souviron, Amado Nervo, Baldomero Fernández Moreno. Fantasy: Roger Stern, John Ostrander, Jim Shooter, Steven Grant, Peter David, Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Bill Mantlo, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, David S. Goyer, Geoff Johns, Mike Baron, Mark Waid, Denny O'Neil, David Michelinie, Bob Layton, Mike W. Barr, Bob Haney, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, John Wagner, Tony Isabella, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Martin Pasko, Carl Potts, Larry Hama, James Roberts, Bob Budiansky, Paul Levitz and much more to come.
    Clutch says:

    Tater Tots! I loved the ones which included bacon pieces (have yet to meet someone doesn’t love bacon) but Ore-Ida discontinued them. Such a HUGE fail on their part! I went through many a bag during my late teens and twenties along with barbecue flavored Hot Pockets.

  2. True story! I work with the grandson of one of the inventors. They sold Ore Ida to Heinze for an amount of money that at the time was quite a bit. Sadly the wealth was not enough to pass on from generation to generation, so all they have is bragging rights.

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