Since its inception 31 years ago, Kettle Foods has prided itself on crafting healthy snacks.

“We were really the first people to look at potato chips through the lens of natural foods,” said Jim Green, Kettle ambassador. “We created this premium potato chip.”

Green, who has been with company since the doors first opened, is quick to remind that the chips didn’t come along until four years later.

When Cameron Healy founded the company in 1978, Kettle produced only nut butters.

The now internationally famous foodies first began production here in Salem and that remains the same.

Oregon’s capitol remains home, although Kettle did open a mid-west manufacturing plant in Beloit, Wis., in 2007.

Salem was a natural choice as it was Healy’s hometown, but there are many other benefits of this locale, according to Green.

“We just happened to be situated in a area where we’re close to shipping lanes like Interstate 5 and also located in the middle of two fabulous potato growing regions, the Columbia Basin and Klamath Falls,” Green said.

Many of the potatoes used to create the thousands of bags of chips produced per day come from within Oregon.

“The closer, the better for us,” Green said. “That’s huge to be near to potato sources.”

Proximity also affords the natural foods company the ease in which to certify some of their organic offerings with Oregon Tilth whose headquarters are also based in Salem.

While retail sales of organic foods increased from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $18.9 billion in 2007, Kettle started using organic potatoes in 1989.

“We think we were the first and still are the only ones,” Green said. “We were born and raised in this world of natural food. We try to support organic whenever we can, so we make a separate line.”

In all of their varieties only all-natural ingredients are employed in the process of creating one batch at a time.

“It takes a little work, but we think it’s worth it,” Green said.

Adding to their array of healthy snacking options is another separate line of chips. In 1997, their low-fat baked chips were introduced.

“We make the only low fat potato chip made from sliced potatoes, not potato flour pressed into a shape,” Green said. “They have only 3 grams of fat per serving.”

Though healthy and potato chip may seem like an oxymoron, Kettle insists that it’s about a balance between taste and health.

“They’re a healthier alternative to most potato chips. Let’s eat great potatoes if you’re going to eat them,” Green said. “They have to taste great. That’s really our number one focus.”

With upwards of twenty flavors lining shelves, they love to experiment with flavor. While customer feedback is a staple of any business, Kettle solicits ideas for new flavors with their create-a-chip challenge. The latest winner? Fully-loaded baked potato.

This selection, due out “any time now,” is the last in a long line of one-of-a-kind varieties.

“What we’ve done from the beginning is offer unique flavors, back to early flavors like yogurt and green onions and that continued,with varieties like spicy Thai and buffalo blue,” Green said.

For those seeking a natural scoop for salsa, Kettle has that corner covered, too. Fun flavors are not just property of potatoes here. Kettle makes chili lime, blue corn and black bean tortilla chips, too.

While potato chips are now thw premiere Kettle product, organic peanut butter, hazelnut butter, cashew butter, and almond butter are still produced at Kettle.

Here’s one food manufacturer that hasn’t forgotten where they started.