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

  1. 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.

  3. […] from wheat treated with Roundup as a pre-harvest desiccant, and perhaps with fungicides as well. Tater Tots, in addition to including white flour and larded with trans-fats, would have been made from […]

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