Whether you like them crushed up and sprinkled over mac ‘n’ cheese, dusted over the famous Rip Fries at Mac’s Local Eats or just popped straight out of the bag, it’s hard to dispute the cult following Red Hot Riplets have amassed in St. Louis.
Today, the potato chips – known for crunchy ridges and a distinctive sweet heat – are by far the most popular offering from Old Vienna, but the company has been making potato chips since Louis Kaufman founded it in 1936. Old Vienna still produces a handful of other products, including corn chips, popcorn and pork rinds, but Red Hot Riplets, which were introduced in the 1970s, account for a whopping 80 percent of the company’s sales. After almost 50 years, this beloved St. Louis snack is as fiery as ever. We caught up with director of operations Andy Doyle and office manager Elisha Schaffer to learn more.
How are Red Hot Riplets different from other chips on the market? For one, it’s not just spicy; it’s a barbecue spice. You can’t find another chip with the same combo of sweet, barbecue and hot – you either get one or the other. Also, we’re known for oversaturating the chips, meaning there’s a high concentration of seasoning. It doesn’t clear your sinuses, but it’s got a good spice. Our ridges were actually designed to hold on to the seasoning. –Elisha Schaffer We think of the St. Louis-style hot sauce as more of a sweeter heat – it doesn’t really get you right up front. –Andy Doyle
Although Old Vienna has been around since the 1930s, it seems like Red Hot Riplets are more popular than ever. What do you attribute that to? The release of the seasoning in 2017 – it kind of rebranded us. For years and years, customers would call in and write in and ask for us to send them some seasoning directly off the line, which we couldn’t do. But in 2017, we finally [bottled it and] put it on the market – that’s when all the restaurants in St. Louis that had been using the chips for all these years reached out to us. Everybody just put their own spin on what they could do with the seasoning. We sold 1,000 bottles in 48 hours – we got orders from Hawaii and Alaska – and actually had to shut our website down. –E.S.
What do you think has made the brand stand the test of time? The loyalty. St. Louis. Anyone who leaves St. Louis and no longer lives in the area orders from us daily. Last year, we had a gentleman on a naval ship that reached out to us and purchased over $500 worth of products. Then he shared it with all the people on the ship and they went crazy and now they’re all hooked. –E.S.
Old Vienna, oldviennallc.com