SHENANDOAH COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Route 11 Potato Chips, a staple Virginia snack, will build four reserve sunflower oil tanks as they say conflict in Eastern Europe has disrupted the supply of this key ingredient.
Russia and Ukraine are the largest and second-largest producers of sunflower oil in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But conflict in those countries has led to disruptions in production and shipping, leaving companies like Route 11 with unreliable supplies.
“Of course, prices have gone up exponentially,” a Route 11 representative said.
Compounding that is the increasing scale of Route 11’s production. The Shenandoah-based company, the spokesperson said, goes through “a tank or truck of oil a month.” In total, the company uses the equivalent of 450 acres of sunflowers each year.
Currently, the company gets its monthly supply delivered in smaller containers, which have themselves been held up by supply chain issues, but transitioning to a larger scale tanker delivery – and holding some of the oil in reserve – will save the company money.
“We’ll actually get a discount on the product,” the spokesperson said.
They predicted the project would end up costing about $50,000. The company recently received a $25,000 grant from the state’s Agriculture and Forest Industry Development fund, and Route 11 said Shenandoah County would match that amount.
Construction is expected to be finished by August, but the company is already looking for more ways to secure a steady supply of sunflower oil.
“It seems like the supply is going to be uncertain for a couple years,” the spokesperson said.
Route 11 is now turning increasingly to local sources, including a farm outside of Richmond and another in North Carolina.