Beer is so, so good. But if you’ve been on one commercial brewery visit, you’ve been on several hundred. It’s all brew kettles and mashtuns — rows and rows of shiny and steaming things. But not all food factory tours are exactly boring. These eight pull back the curtain on production, revealing just what it takes to crank out your favorite hot sauce, instant noodle, potato chip or sugar fix with quality and consistency. Many offer snacks, samples and shopping throughout, meaning you won’t leave the learning experience with a grumbling stomach.
Sriracha: Irwindale, CA
In an effort to placate crankypants neighbors complaining about capsaicin fumes (don’t you live in California? Clean air is for the weak!), Huy Fong Foods instituted an open-door policy to its massive Sriracha operation in early 2014. Heat-seeking visitors get tooled around the hot-sauce maker’s 23-acre campus in multi-passenger carts, and can watch chilies get pulverized into the paste that creates the famous green-capped condiment. There’s also a gift shop if you feel the need to purchase rooster sauce-branded undergarments.
Martin’s Potato Rolls: Chambersburg, PA
Martin’s, the preferred off-the-shelf burger and hot dog roll of the good and just, is based in Chambersburg, about halfway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. If you find yourself craving carbs in this section of the Keystone State, schedule an appointment for a free tour of 1000 Potato Roll Lane (!), which features home-baked heirlooms like vintage bread equipment and the company’s original delivery truck.
Shin Ramen: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Instant ramen snobs (we see you out there) who turn up their noses at dorm-room staples like Top Ramen and Cup Noodles reserve their pre-packaged praise for Nongshim, which produces the popular Shin brand of easy-to-make ramyun. Based in South Korea, the company has plants throughout Asia, and in Southern California, too. The stateside location hosts tours four days a week, dressing visitors up in cool lab suits like Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak and inviting them to partake in the the noodle-making and noodle-eating processes.
Pez: Orange, CT
New Haven, Connecticut is known for clam-topped pizza and people who are way smarter than us. Neighboring Orange, however, exports a much more populist commodity — Pez, which looks like over-the-counter allergy medicine but tastes way better. Admission to the storied candy brand’s “museum” isn’t free ($4 for kids, $5 for adults), but you get access to staggering collection of Pez dispensers and memorabilia, plus a gift shop and a badass view of the manufacturing facility.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory: San Francisco, CA
Crisps stuffed with pseudo-Confucian wisdom are easy eyeroll material for those critical of Chinese-American tradition. But in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the arguable birthplace of the fortune cookie, they’re still folded by hand at the unassuming Golden Gate. What this “tour” lacks in modern comforts it more than makes up for in unapologetic charm and cheap snack sacks. Want to Instagram the action? It’ll cost you 50 cents.
Cadbury World: Birmingham, England
Many Americans know what it means to be Hershey Park Happy, but you’ve also got to be Cadbury Cheerful (not the actual slogan) to complete the chocolate-based Anglophonic emotional circle. Tour opps covering founder John Cadbury’s business background and whimsical milk chocolate demos join food, rides, attractions and the “World’s Biggest Cadbury Shop,” selling treats of all shapes and
Utz Quality Foods: Hanover, PA
Casual potato chip fanboys and full-blown members of the Snackluminati alike are familiar with Utz, which produces Zapp’s and Dirty brand chips in addition to its own product lines (best crab chips). The company’s 600,000-square-foot factory is an open book, featuring an enclosed observation deck overlooking the production floor along with a self-guided audio tour that traces the company’s history from the early ‘20s to today.
Ben & Jerry’s: Waterbury, VT
Though it’s owned by international superpower Unilever, America’s most man-sandals-friendly mainstream ice cream brand is still headquartered in its home state of Vermont, where it offers guided factory tours most days of the year. The on-premises scoop shop serves limited-edition mixes, and you can tip your cap to “dearly de-pinted” varieties in the somber, still-kinda-sweet “Flavor Graveyard,” dedicated to discontinued products.
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