Auction of Jays Foods Marks The End Of An Era

On January 24th, eighty years of potato chip manufacturing on Chicago’s south side will come to a close with the public auction sale of equipment from Jays Foods’ manufacturing headquarters on East 99th Street. This announcement follows the bankruptcy court’s acceptance of a $24.8 million bulk sale of the majority of the firm’s assets to another party.

The Jays brand has always been considered a quality snack product throughout Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Minnesota and Iowa. Unfortunately, even with a 60% market share in the “ready-to-eat” popcorn category in these states, Jay’s flagship manufacturing plant could not offset the rising costs of cooking oils, raw materials, energy, and labor costs — all while competing with snack food giant Frito Lay (which has nearly 70% market share nationwide).

Jays started simply in 1927 when Leonard Japp, Sr. bought an old truck for $50 and began selling pretzels. The business grew rapidly until the stock market crash of 1929, but Japp bounced back and began selling chips under the brand name “Mrs. Japp’s Potato Chips”. In 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor, anti-Japanese sentiment led to the company being renamed “Jay’s Potato Chips.” From there the company grew to produce popcorn, pretzels and tortilla chips. Japp credits his wife Eugenia with much of their success as she created recipes using potato chips which were then printed on the bags.

The company remained family-owned until 1986, when it was acquired by Borden, Inc. In 1994, Jays Foods was re-acquired by the Japp Family who operated it for the next 10 years in an attempt to re-establish their quality snack food brand throughout the Midwest. Unfortunately, economics and technological advancements created an additional hurdle for the family and led to the company’s first bankruptcy filing in 2004. The company was then sold to a Chicago private-equity firm which renamed the company Ubiquity Brands and eventually late last year, it ended up in bankruptcy once again.

The equipment auction is being conducted by Rabin Worldwide of San Francisco and is open to the public. It will include batch frying systems utilized to make the “Krunchers” kettle style chips, four continuous fry lines which produced the bulk of Jays regular & barbeque potato chips, two popcorn systems which were recently producing the famous O-Ke-Doke popcorns, as well as office furnishings and tools. Those interested in learning more about the auction can visit for complete listings and photos or call 1.800.421.2144.

Jays Foods
CONTACT: Drew Hynes of Rabin Worldwide, +1-415-522-5700, ext. 300,
[email protected], for Jays Foods

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