Things You Didn't Know About Tater Tots

Things You Didn't Know About Tater Tots

There's only one true Tater Tot, produced by Ore-Ida, and we bet that's not the only thing you didn't know about this humble snack. 

Americans Eat 70 Million Pounds Per Year

That's a whole lot of pounds of Tots, more than the entire populations of California and Texas combined!

Chefs Like Daniel Boulud and Grant Achatz are Making Their Own

At his restaurant Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud serves homemade tots with pork and caramelized onion, and at Grant Achatz's cocktail bar The Aviary,  the chef has served house-made tots that kick the exterior crunchiness, interior creaminess, and potato flavor up to 11. 

They’re Treated with a Chemical That’s Also Used to Remove Hair and Feathers from Livestock

Not to startle you, but one of the ingredients in Tater Tots is disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate, which has many culinary applications and is generally recognized as safe by the FDA. It helps leaven baked goods, maintains color in canned seafood, and in this application, keeps the potatoes from turning off-colors like gray or brown. It's also used to remove stains in leather processing, as a dispersant in oil will drilling, and (mixed with hot water) for hair and feather removal during hog and poultry slaughter.


The Name Was Decided via an Employee Contest

When Tater Tots were first invented, the Griggs needed to come up with a name, so they held a contest among employees and their friends. Clora Lay Orton, a young housewife, suggested the name – tater is slang for potato and tot refers to their small size – and took the win. 

They Didn’t Start off as Strong Sellers

Tater Tots were sold extremely cheaply when they were first invented because they were essentially fried scraps, but they didn't sell as expected for that very reason. There was no "perceived value" (consumers just assumed they were worthless because the price was so low), but they started selling once the price was increased. 

They Come in Six Varieties

Ore-Ida, which is owned by Heinz, sells Tater Tots in six varieties: Original, Onion, Mini, Extra Crispy, Extra Crispy Easy (which cook in the microwave), and Crispy Crowns

They’re Commonly Used in Midwestern “Hotdish” Casseroles

If you're from the Midwest (especially Minnesota and North Dakota) you certainly know what a hotdish casserole is; it's one of the classic regional specialties. Just about everyone has their own recipe, but they usually contain some combination of canned cream soup, ground meat, vegetables, and potatoes, usually of the Tater Tot variety. 

They’re Not Called Tater Tots in Australia

In Australia they're called potato gems, potato royals, or potato pom-poms, and in Canada you'll find Tasti Taters. Other imitators include Tater Treats, Spud Puppies, Trader Potato Tots (at Trader Joe's), and Tater Puffs (Whole Foods).  

They Launched a 2014 Ad Campaign Against “Imi-Taters”

Like Corn Flakes and other pioneer brands like Band-Aid and Kleenex, lots of people don't realize that Tater Tot is a proprietary brand name. In order to raise awareness that there' only one official Tater Tot, in 2014 they launched an ad campaign urging consumers to "not be fooled by imi-taters," with Tots disguised as cowboys, pirates, and other silly costumes.  

They Were Sued to Remove a Cancer-Causing Chemical in 2008

Back in 2008, Ore-Ida was sued along with Frito-Lay and Kettle Foods to reduce the levels of acrylamide in their products, a potentially cancer-causing chemical that appears in foods that are deep-fried. (Ore-Ida agreed to pay $600,000 in penalties for not warning consumers about the dangers, and to cut the level of that chemical in half.)