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James Herr, Snack Food Pioneer, Dies At 87

Posted On: 4/9/2012

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James Herr, Jim Herr, James Herr obituary, Herr Foods Inc., potato chip, snack food, snack food pioneer, vending machine snacks, vending business, Lancaster PA

James Herr, Herr Foods Inc. NOTTINGHAM, PA -- James S. Herr, founder of the company that makes Herr's potato chips and other snack foods sold in vending machines and in stores, died on April 5. He was 87.

Herr had been fighting a respiratory illness and died at his home in the Philadelphia suburb of Nottingham, where Herr Foods Inc. is based, according to his son Ed Herr, the company's president.

Jim Herr was born in Lancaster, 30 miles northwest of Nottingham. He began his career with a $1,750 investment in a small potato chip company, according to the company's website. He started his snack food business in 1946 with the help of his then fiancée, and now wife, Miriam.

Under Jim Herr's leadership, the business grew from a small potato chip manufacturing operation to a producer of a full line of snacks. By 1999, sales volume had expanded to more than $100 million a year, and the payroll had about 1,100 employees who produced and marketed 240 varieties of pretzels, chips and other snacks in a nine-state region. Herr's products are also sold in several overseas markets.

Today, Herr's potato chips include such flavors as Baby Back Ribs, Cheddar Sour Cream, Ketchup and Original Crisp 'N Tasty, among others. The company emerged as a snack food innovator in 1958 when it introduced flavored potato chips. In 1974, Herr's switched to foil packaging from traditional glassine bags. The 1970s and '80s saw a growth in the snack food industry that prompted an expansion in production variety, including corn and tortilla chips, along with pretzels. The '80s also saw the addition of the Herr Angus Farm, a cattle farm that made use of potato waste products.

Jim Herr retired as chairman of the board at Herr Foods in 2005, when his oldest son, J.M. Herr, assumed the chairmanship. He retained his title of founder and continued to serve on the board until his passing.

He is survived by his wife, five children and 20 grandchildren.