LEOMINSTER — The owners of Tri-Sum Potato Chips are quick to dispel rumors about their multigenerational family-run business closing. In fact, they’re happy to share that the company founded in 1908 is flourishing and that their customers are as eager as ever to sink their teeth into the quality snacks they produce.
“Tri-Sum is not going out of business and in fact, has reinvested in the business in the past year, establishing a new stronger manufacturing relationship with Crispy Maid/Terrell’s located in the Northeast and undertook some research and development to create a flavor profile for our current product offering, very similar to the original recipe,” said third generation owner Richard Duchesneau. “We also introduced the ‘new’ retro-look package last fall, in keeping with our 114-year potato chip history.”
You can tell how proud Richard Duchesneau is of the iconic New England company he runs out of his Leominster home, “a Central Mass. institution.” Tri-Sum, which was founded by his grandfather J.P. Duchesneau, was originally known as Leominster Potato Chip/J.P. Duchesneau and Sons and was located on Carter Street.
Richard Duchesneau has worked at the company for over 50 years and said they have a “fanatically loyal and supportive customer base.” His father and uncle helmed it for many years before he took over in the 1970s and his son Jeffrey Duchesneau is also carrying on the family legacy as a fourth-generation Tri-Sum team member for over 25 years.
Their single product line generates sales of over one quarter million bags of chips annually and in addition to offering Tri-Sum locally “at some of New England’s finest supermarkets,” Richard Duchesneau said they ship to all 50 states via online sales, shipping out as many as 500 priority mail orders during the busiest months.
They wet their customers’ appetites with their original, traditional recipe of salty, crispy potato chips currently offered in a 9.5 ounce size bag with some packaged in the retro design inspired by the bag from the 1950s.
They even offer a four pack of potato chips on their website, http://tri-sum.com, that includes a bag of their own chips as well as sour cream & onion, barbecue, and salt & vinegar flavored chips from another well-known New England business, Wachusett.
In addition, Tri-Sum’s website carries swag available for purchase including chip clips, tote bags, drink coozies, and lunch bags.
A post made in the Discussing Fitchburg Now Facebook group back in July prompted a lively discussion about whether Tri-Sum was ceasing production, with many people chiming in the brand is their “favorite” potato chips and one person commenting “somebody in Leominster needs to buy the name and recipe and bring them back to Leominster!”
Richard Duchesneau said he’s thankful for the opportunity to clear up “the rumors that have been circulating” about his family’s business.
“Our longevity comes from offering a unique product to satisfy our extremely loyal consumer base and our goodwill built up over our 114 years of existence,” he said. “We recognize that our loyal customer is the only reason we have become the oldest potato chip brand in America. Our customers are our number one priority and I personally communicate with hundreds of them by email, phone, and face to face to keep my finger on our sales pulse to make certain we maintain their incredibly loyal product support.”
Like many other businesses, Tri-Sum is facing product shortages. However, the company’s challenges are not related to the pandemic but instead due to the fact that their former distributor decided to jump ship.
“Utz Snack Foods no longer sees any merit or need to keep Tri-Sum on the supermarket shelves, thereby eliminating another competitive brand,” Richard Duchesneau said. “Unfortunately, this national company does not understand or appreciate the support for hometown product.”
He said they worked with Utz for over 20 years after realizing back in 1999 “that this was the only viable way to be able to continue to offer Tri-Sum Potato Chips.”
“When Utz first came into our market area, they understood the importance of continuing to offer the local brands to ensure their acceptance,” Richard Duchesneau recalled. “However, now that they are fully established, they see little need to continue to offer Tri-Sum to their customers. Our only desire now and our only mission is to continue our ‘labor of love’ and supplying our loyal customers with their potato chip of choice, Tri-Sum.”
He, on behalf of the company, donated their replica Tri-Sum wagon to the city years ago, further solidifying the fact that the family is deeply entrenched in the area and committed to keeping the company locally based in Leominster. Richard Duchesneau said they plan to do just this “with the assistance and support of our new manufacturing partner through their sales network” and expects to be back on supermarket shelves by the end of September thanks to its newly inked distribution partnership.
“Our goal is not only to continue our role as a Central Mass. iconic food brand offering continued availability to our customer base but to offer Tri-Sum on a broader basis through specialty stores, especially those who have an appreciation for our history and unique product and packaging.”