All That and a Bag of Chips

Story by Josie Randall


Photos by Sergei Belski

Winter 2023/24

There’s something about a crispy kettle chip with a kick of jalapeno that Leonel Preza loves.

As plant director for Super-Pufft Snacks Corporation’s Airdrie facility, Preza and his team have spent close to a year developing the perfect crispy crunchy chip. With a new, $50-million facility in Airdrie’s northeast — he might just do it.

“We produce about 550,000 lbs of potato chips every month,” says Preza of the plant, one of four in Canada owned by parent company, snack-maker Shearer’s Foods.

“As you can imagine, that is a lot of chips. We have two different lines; one to make kettle chips and one that makes thinner, regular kind of chips. With our new facility and goals to expand, we hope to do about 700,000 lbs in the future.”

Investing in Airdrie

Super-Pufft manufactures and co-packs chips for retailers like Loblaws, Costco, Wal-Mart and other national brands. Shearer’s itself has been around for more than 60 years and sells food to more than 30 countries.

The main focus of the Airdrie facility is to serve Western Canada and northwestern U.S.

Only a few hours from the U.S. border, the facility’s location in Airdrie, which opened about a year ago, makes it the perfect spot for moving goods across the region. That, Preza says, gives Airdrie a bigger role in the broader supply chain network.

“Airdrie is really the perfect spot for this facility,” says Preza. “We have the infrastructure to operate our facility, and we have transportation infrastructure and we also have a workforce here who have the skills to work in our facility.”

The Airdrie Super-Pufft facility employs 145 permanent and about 50 temporary employees, depending on the season. The majority of those employees live in Airdrie.

“We have a strong sense of community at our plant,” says Preza.

“The people who work here are neighbours. So, when our plant sees success, we can invest that right back into the community. Whether that is supporting our employees, participating in community events or giving where we can — what goes around comes around.”

Beyond Airdrie

It’s not just Airdrie the Super-Pufft facility invests in.

The facility is expected to use about 80 million lbs of Alberta potatoes every year.

“We have good access to good potatoes. Alberta is one of the largest producers of potatoes in Canada,” says Preza.

“We’re supporting farmers, we’re hiring local people to work in our facilities, and we’re shipping to stores around us. Some of our consumers are literally our next-door neighbours. All this, besides making the plant as profitable and efficient as possible, gives our team a greater purpose.”