Cape Cod Potato Chips are a New England favorite. The company uses a unique kettle-cooked method that produces a crispy and golden color. Cape Cod is dedicated to making delicious, quality snack products for its customers. They effectively respond to their customers' demands and even provide free tours of its factory in Hyannis, MA. Although it is clear that Cape Cod cares about its customers, they have very little information on their sustainability efforts. They are a subsidiary of Campbell Co, which has a detailed 2021 Corporate Responsibility Report. Although they show progress in other sectors such sourcing sustainable tomatoes and “No Antibiotic Ever” chicken, little has been done to increase their sustainability in the potato sector.
Cape Cod Potato Chips are made out of potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, safflower oil, and/or sunflower oil), and sea salt. Their original, lightly salted, and sea salt varieties are Non-GMO Project Verified. This was driven by consumers' desire for the brand to provide more transparency. The Cape Cod website also states that their chips are not certified organic, but that they are evaluating what their customers' needs are. It is clear that Cape Cod deeply cares about creating quality snack products that their customers love. However, sustainably sourced ingredients is not a top priority for the company. Cape Cod Potato Chips is a subsidiary of Campbell’s, which states in their Corporate Responsibility Report that their goal is to source 50% (by volume) of priority ingredients including potatoes from “suppliers engaged in an approved sustainable agriculture program.” However, their assessment shows that no progress has been made to sustainably source potatoes.
Although delicious, potato chips have a high sodium and fat content with little nutritional value. It is important to eat a balanced meal along with potato chips. Another concern is a molecule called acrylamide that is a neurotoxin and carcinogen, which is produced in the frying process. Acrylamide can accumulate in your body and increase your risk of several cancers. However, the Cape Cod kettle-cooked process creates less acrylamide than traditional frying processes.
Cape Cod offers a free factory tour to visitors in Hyannis, MA that shows how chips are made and packaged. Specifically, a unique kettle-cooked process is used that gives each chip a deep crunchy texture. This is different from a typical frying process where a potato slice is placed in a tub of oil and on a conveyor belt. The kettle process includes frying the potato slices in a shallow oil vat while stirring them with a rake. This ensures that the chips don’t stick together and are evenly cooked. After the cooking process, the excess oil is spun off the chips, they are inspected, salted and seasoned, and finally packaged. It is unclear if the excess oil is reused or disposed of. In addition, it is troubling that their label states that their chips could contain 1-3 different types of oils rather than one. Vegetable oils are often referred to as “vegetable,” so manufacturers can change the oil without having to print a new label.
Opening up their factory is a great way to create community engagement and increase transparency. However, Cape Cod and Campbell’s do not provide adequate information on where they source their ingredients from and what their farming practices look like. Potato crops traditionally have a low water footprint, moderate carbon footprint, and do not create any significant damage to the environment. However, since Cape Cod does not use certified organic potatoes they may use pesticides that contaminate water and soil.
Cape Cod Potato Chips were founded in 1980 by Steve Bernard and his brother Jude. They had the goal of creating a high quality snack with carefully selected ingredients that is made with little processing. They bought a small storefront in Hyannis, MA, but their business soon outgrew this space. In 1985, their factory doors were opened to visitors and customers to give additional insight into the brand and the kettle-cooking process. This allows people to see the employees in action, engages customers, and increases transparency. Although the open factory allows for insight into the production process, it is important that Cape Cod also evaluates the labor treatment of where it sources its ingredients from. In particular, agriculture is a dangerous industry due to exposure to harmful chemicals and exploitation including long hours, little pay, and unsafe working conditions. However, it is positive that Campbell’s joined the Potato Sustainability Alliance (PSA) in 2020 to begin analyzing data and accelerating their sustainability efforts.