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From the humble potato comes a sustainable chip company

Humble Potato Chips offers four flavours of potato chips in plastic-free, compostable bags

A Puslinch potato chip company is taking the lead on crunching down on single-use plastics to inspire other businesses.

Humble Potato Chips offers salty snacks that come in plastic-free, compostable bags made with plants. The bags are Industrial Compostable Certified and can break down in municipal or commercial composting systems in 90 to 180 days.

Alicia and Jeff Lahey are the co-founders and CEOs of Humble Chips. While most things are considered biodegradable, Alicia explains compostable items leave no toxic residue behind as they are made with organic materials.

"We want to prove that this is possible, that plastic-free won't break down into plastics and it can be composted and turned back into soil, in as little as 90 days, certified, in as little as 90 days," said Alicia.

The couple met in 2007 while both working at Frito-Lay in Toronto. Alicia left Frito-Lay to work for Nature's Path, the largest organic food company in Canada, while Jeff worked for a brief time in toys before helping to launch Skinny Pop Popcorn.

At first, they speculated about starting their own business of providing a better alternative to kettle cooked chips. Then, after the birth of their son, Wilder, the couple began thinking about what the world would look like for him from an environmental lens.

"That was the trigger for us to say, 'If we're ever going to do this potato chip company, we needed to figure out how to do it with planet-friendly packaging,'" said Alicia.

"If we were being honest with ourselves, we were negatively contributing to some of the issues out there with the environment," added Jeff.

While the technology is there for plastic-free packaging, Alicia said it is temperamental. Humble Potato Chip tested three different kinds of bags before landing on their latest version which will appear on shelves this month. Previous packaging was affected by humidity, which caused the bags to become brittle and form air bubbles.

"We have been able to get it to a place that we're feeling very confident about," said Alicia, noting their latest bag is 65 per cent stronger.

"It's very comparable to the performance of plastic without being plastic," said Jeff.

The potatoes used by Humble Chips are sourced from a family farm in Everett, Ontario. The chips come in four flavours and are coated in a spice blend created by Alicia's brother-in-law, which allows their chips to use less salt and sugar.  As a way of further reducing emissions, Humble Chips leave the potato skins on.

"This makes so much sense, it goes along with our values of trying to reduce waste and trying to be more sustainable, and we love the taste," said Alicia.

Since launching in February, Humble Chips is in 1,250 stores across Canada and their best-selling locations are in this area. Jeff contributes the success they have had in this area with how green-minded customers are.

"We have done our own demos and sampling, and listening to people say, 'Wow! This is possible!' or 'We make this here in Ontario? In Puslinch? and I think with people, there is a sense of pride there as well," he said.

For Humble Chips, it's not about having a competitive advantage by offering plastic-free packaging. It is more about sharing their knowledge with other businesses.

"There's a lot of companies, especially smaller companies, that want to do more or want to do better, but there's not a lot of information out there I think, helping them navigate how they can get to a place where they can go plastic-free," said Jeff.

Alicia adds their son is also proud of Humble Chips and will ask where the chips are when they go into grocery stores.

"Not even just chip brands, because it can be used for all different kinds of solutions, to move over faster for our children, for Wilder, for the kids of the future so that they can live on a planet that's not full of micro-plastics," said Alicia.