NIBBLING AGAIN: Gibble’s snacks are back

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Jerome Nicholson monitors the automated line turning out Gibble’s Homestyle Potato Chips. Tuesday was the second day of operation at the plant, after it was shut down a year ago.

Tuesday was a rainy day and the tax filing deadline. However, April 15 also offered a good reason to smile. Gibble’s Homestyle Potato Chips were back in production.

It was the first day potatoes were again turned into chips at the production facility at 6647 Molly Pitcher Highway. On Monday the first batch of Gibble’s Old Fashioned Pretzels, both thin and mini, rolled off the automated assembly line.

Robert and Amy Hartman of the Hartman Snack Group Inc. brought back the well-loved snacks after the Nibble with Gibble’s company went through ownership and production changes, to the horror of loyal customers.

The company was founded in 1959 by the Gibble family. It was sold to Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe in 1996 and then to Eldon Dieffenbach in late 2012. He ceased production in March 2013. The Hartmans bought Gibble’s Foods in December 2013, with the intention of bringing back all of the products in the snack line.

“We love the Gibble’s chips,” said vice president Amy Hartman. “We knew it was a good product and heard the plant was for sale. It was a good opportunity for expansion.”

Hartman Snack Group also owns King’s Quality Foods Inc., a pretzel maker, and All Seasons Kitchen Inc., a salad maker. Both are based in Bowmansville.

The chips and pretzels are in local independent grocery stores this week. Yellow and white Cheese Puffys and Red Hot Potato Chips will be next. The company is waiting on the film, which is already printed, to be converted into bags for the packaging. Coming at some point are the bar-b-q chips, popcorn and Kay and Ray’s Potato Chips.

All of the employees formerly worked at Gibble’s, most with 17 to 30 years of experience. The 16 first hired back returned to their previous duties, as well as taking on new ones.

"They are wearing different hats,” Hartman said. Their roles include running the fryer and oven, packing, sanitation, operations manager, office and sales. She credited them with the company’s good results in the initial days back in action.

“The success is from everyone’s hard work, dedication and willingness to do what needs to be done.”

The snacks are made from the same ingredients and recipes that people are familiar with, she continued.

“They are the same great tasting snacks. We wanted to keep everything original.”

Hartman knows there was a run on Gibble’s products last spring, and many customers have stashes at home.

“A lot of them are eating what they had in their freezer now, or are waiting until they see the new ones on the shelves.”

She admitted her favorite treat was the homestyle chips.

The couple lives in Berks County and is commuting, while they also tend their other businesses. They are optimistic about the relaunch of the Franklin County favorites.

Hartman said, “Gibble’s is the best on the market. We still believe that.”