West Virginia Potato Chip Company Dumps Healthy Chips After Drop in Sales

West Virginia's lone potato chip maker is scrapping its low-fat recipe after consumer reaction to the healthier creations resulted in a 6 percent drop in sales.

Parkersburg-based Mister Bee, which hadn't changed its recipe since it opened in 1951, launched its new chips in March. The chips are made using all cottonseed oil, which is free of artery-clogging trans fat.

But the new chip drew immediate reactions from customers who said if they wanted healthy, they wouldn't be eating chips. Fans of the old chips said the new chip was darker in color, greasier and left an aftertaste.

Mister Bee President Alan Klein acknowledged there was a "noticeable difference" in the new chip's taste after being in the package for a couple of days. The company tried modifying its recipe by using different oils, but consumers still didn't like the new chip.

Since March, the company averaged 15 phone calls a day from consumers.

"Most people were cordial and tried to understand, but a few people were just very, very mad," Klein said.

To restore peace, the company will revert to frying up batches of its chips in soybean oil and all the trans fat that comes with it. The company will deplete it stocks of the healthier chips before switching back to the old recipe.

"We really thought we were doing the right thing, but if it's not what the customer wants you have to make the customer happy," Klein said. "Even when we tried to explain to people why we did it, it didn't help. They didn't care. They like the old chips."