File - Snyder of Berlin

Edward Snyder and his German family started Snyder of Berlin in 1925. This is an August 2014 file photo.

BERLIN – Snyder of Berlin, Somerset County's snack-making mainstay, is in line for a new owner.

Through a definitive agreement last week, Snyder of Berlin and five other potato chip brands will be shifted from $7.8 billion Chicago-based packaged foods conglomerate Conagra Brands to Utz Quality Foods, a fellow Pennsylvania potato chip-maker with a nearly century-old snacking legacy.

"We are excited about the opportunity to add these important brands and capabilities to our portfolio," said Dylan Lissette, CEO of Utz. "These brands bring a strong consumer following and unique craft heritage. Their distribution and manufacturing capabilities, along with their customer relationships, enhance our ability to further grow our brand portfolio further west."

For years, Hanover-based Utz has been listed as Pennsylvania's largest independently-held chip-maker.

Unlike Snyder's most recent series of owners – whose products included cake mixes, frozen vegetables and TV dinners – Utz remains a private, family-owned company whose products are solely focused on potato chips, pretzels and other bagged snacks, its website shows.

In doing so, Utz also operates on a direct-to-store model that Conagra only utilizes for Snyder of Berlin, Cascade, Hawaiin Snacks and the other potato chip brands it is selling to Utz – a move that Conagra officials said makes their move a natural one.

"While Conagra has a large and growing snacks business, we do not currently operate with a DSD model." Sean Connolly, president and CEO of Conagra Brands, said. "We believe this business will have more opportunity for growth under Utz, an established DSD operator."

Direct-to-store delivery is a business method where products are delivered directly to their retail destination – in this cases supermarkets and convenience stores – by the company that supplies them, instead of large distribution centers and warehouses.

Snyder of Berlin company officials, as a subsidiary of Conagra, referred comments about the sale to their parent company's Chicago corporate office Thursday.

Questions about the transaction's timetable and Snyder of Berlin's current employment figures were referred to several different people in the Conagra's communications staff and then went unanswered.

Snyder of Berlin has been a part of central Somerset County since 1947 – but has been owned by larger companies since the 1970s, The Tribune-Democrat's archives show.

The company was purchased by frozen foods giant Pinnacle Foods five years ago, and last year, that company – Snyder included – was acquired by Conagra.

According to Snyder of Berlin's website, the potato chip company employs approximately 300 people. Throughout the year at its Berlin plant, the company makes its products using 17 million pounds of potatoes – much of them grown on farms within a 25 mile radius of their facility, the website indicated.

Financial terms of the agreement between Utz and Conagra weren't released on their joint press release to media.

The deal itself was expected to be closed by before the end of the year, company officials said in the release.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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