By Bill Clevlen
Brian Roth is passionate about potato chips. Even with a mask covering his face, you notice his grin while he proudly speaks about the Billy Goat Chip Company based in St. Louis. For nearly an hour, he shared stories about starting a business and all of the things that he and his wife Michelle have learned along their journey. Their potato chips, which come in small brown paper bags with clear windows, were born out of a restaurant venture the Roths once owned. With their entrees, they served homemade potato chips that were an instant hit with their customers. Making all of their food from scratch, chips were easier to cook than fries. They are crunchy and simple, yet packed with lots of flavor. Roth refers to the seasoning blend as “dust”. After their restaurant was sold, Brian, who is a trained chef, decided that the chips themselves could be popular enough for a business of their own. While their chips were not exactly an overnight success, the Roths learned through trial and error how to produce, package, and distribute one of Missouri’s most sought-after local products.
The Roths are not alone. Missouri is fortunate to have many locally-produced and popular food products that thrive simply because Missourians support them. That includes former residents that move away and crave the unique tastes of home. One might order a frozen Shakespeare’s Pizza to remind them of college days while studying in Columbia, or perhaps a bottle of Maul’s – known as “America’s first barbecue sauce” which has been in production for more than 90 years. The range of products made in Missouri skews from worldwide brands like Anheuser-Busch, French’s Mustard, and Frank’s RedHot Sauce, to small town operations like Honeysuckle Acres in Wentzville that produces raw honey among other specialty items.
Located within walking distance from St. Louis Union Station, you’ll find the Missouri company that keeps sno-cones flavored all around the world. No matter where you are on the planet, next time you order a sno-cone (or shaved ice) try to see what’s on the label of your preferred sweet topping. Whether it’s cherry, lemon-line, or anything in between – it most likely came from Rio Syrup and was shipped by the Tomber family, which has been in business since 1940.
Callaway County is home to Backer’s Potato Chips – something I discovered while doing a story in Fulton, Missouri. Their barbecue chips are some of the best I’ve ever tasted! They claim to produce over 7,000 pounds of chips an hour and ship them all over the United States and Mexico. (Side note: Mr. William Backer, former owner of the company, collected classic cars as his venture grew more and more popular. You can find his car collection at the Auto World Museum right off of highway 70 in Fulton.)
One of America’s classic candies is still produced in Missouri. Cherry Mash is made locally, in St. Joseph. The chocolate-covered cherry mixture was invented in the same year as the telephone when the United States celebrated its 100th birthday. Today, the company produces many other candies and peanut-flavored goodies. Russel-Stover is another Missouri-based candy company located in Kansas City.
Ice cream (or frozen custard) never goes out of style – especially with a local flair. Ted Drewes has been a Route 66 highlight for decades and a place where visitors will gather in long lines out to the street following a Cardinal baseball game or on any other hot summer night. Clementine’s is a specialty ice cream brand produced in Missouri that’s been featured in media outlets all over the country for its unique flavors and tastes. They even ship their products outside of Missouri these days using special packaging and dry ice.
The list of favorite hometown eats seems to be endless – especially when it comes to snacks. Old Vienna Red Hot Riplets, Vess Soda, Fitz Root Beer, Bissinger’s Chocolates, and of course, Imo’s Pizza in St. Louis with the – love it or hate it – Provel cheese. I could go on and on – but now, for some reason, I’m starving.
And if you eat too much of any of these things, you can feel good knowing that TUMS are made in Missouri as well.
Bill Clevlen is a contributing writer from St. Louis.