The potato chip was invented by George Crum in 1853. The snack food became popular during the 1920s following the mechanical potato peeler. In 1932 salesman Herman W. Lay opened a snack food operation in Nashville, Tennessee and, in 1938, he purchased the Atlanta, Georgia potato chip manufacturer “Barrett Food Company,” renaming it “H.W. Lay & Company.” Lay criss-crossed the southern United States selling the product from the trunk of his car. In 1942, Lay introduced the first continuous potato processor, resulting in the first large-scale production of the product.
The business shortened its name to “the Lay’s Company” in 1944 and became the first snack food manufacturer to purchase television commercials, with Bert Lahr as a celebrity spokesman. His signature line, “so crisp you can hear the freshness,” became the chips’ first slogan along with “de-Lay-sious!” As the popular commercials aired during the 1950s, Lay’s went national in its marketing and was soon supplying product throughout the United States. In 1961, the Frito Company founded by Elmer Doolin and Lay’s merged to form Frito-Lay Inc., a snack food giant with combined sales of over $127 million annually, the largest of any manufacturer. Shortly thereafter, Lays introduced its best-known slogan “betcha you can’t eat just one.” Sales of the chips became international, with marketing assisted by a number of celebrity endorsers.
In 1965, Frito-Lay merged with the Pepsi Cola Company to form Pepsico, Inc. and a barbeque version of the chips appeared on grocery shelves.
Frito-Lay products presently control 55% of the United States salty foods marketplace.