Who Invented Tater Tots? (Invention Timeline Explained)

You can never go wrong with fried foods. Who doesn’t love crispy fried chicken or deep-fried hotdogs? We even serve fried ice cream now. Fried foods tend to be everyone’s favorite. This is because they have the two characteristics that busy people are looking for: delicious and easy to cook.

While French fries are a typical fried potato dish, there is another potato delicacy that Americans are crazy about- tater tots. Tater tots are grated, and mashed potatoes are formed into nugget cylinders. They are often served as side dishes or quick snacks, and people of all ages love them. This article will tell you the humble story of this famous potato delicacy.

Who invented tater tots?

Tater tots were invented in 1953 by F. Nephi Grigg. The term “tater tots” was given by Nephi and Golden Grigg.

The tater tots’ key contributors (and evolution)

  • Nephi Grigg
    From Scraps to Gold

    In 1953, Nephi Grigg, Ross Erin Butler Sr, and Golden Grigg (owners of Ore-Ida) were looking for another way to use potato scraps or leftovers. They cut the leftover slivers into tinier pieces, mashed them, and added seasoning and flour. They pushed the mixture through uniform holes and sliced them into nugget size pieces.

  • Ore-Ida
    Alliterative Name

    The name “tater tot” was coined by the Ore-Ida company. “Tater” is a shorter term for potato, “tot” was added to make it more catchy and appealing. “Tater tot” was trademarked by the Ore-Ida company.

  • Clora Lay Orton
    Baby Potatoes

    The Griggs held a competition for naming their invention. The winner was a housewife named Clora Lay Orton, who described them as “baby potatoes.”

  • Heinz Company Brands LLC
    New Owners

    In 1965, Heinz bought the Ore-Ida company. Since then, Tater Tots has gained more popularity. Americans consume around 32 million kilograms of tater tots a year.

  • Vegetable Companies
    Greener Tater Tots

    Vegan advocates and vegetable Companies introduced healthier and greener versions of tater tots. For example, they replaced potatoes with more nutritious veggies like cauliflower and broccoli.

When were the tater tots invented?

The Griggs siblings invented tater tots in 1953 as they attempted to find ways to use their leftover potatoes.

A brief history of tater tots

Tater tots are one of the most popular frozen goods in the US nowadays. Companies made billions of dollars because of tater tots. However, behind its current success, the history of tater tots has a humble beginning.

In 1953, Nephi Griggs, Golden Griggs, and Ross Butler Sr. were heads of Ore-Ida. Ore-Ida was a frozen food company that focused on potatoes. The siblings were looking for ways to earn extra profit from leftover potatoes. They did a lot of experiments before they decided to mash the leftover potatoes with flour and seasonings. First, they used a machine to push the mixture and cut it into pieces. Then, they tried to fry them, and boom! The first tater tots were served.

Originally, tater tots were inexpensive since they were just made out of scrap potatoes. However, because of their low price, consumers didn’t show much interest in them, thinking they were not valuable. When the marketing team noticed this, they decided to increase the cost of tater tots and their perceived economic value. And as they predicted, people started buying tater tots.

A housewife won the naming contest of the Griggs siblings. She coined the name tater tots. “Tater” is a shorter word or a slang term for potato, and “tat,” which means small, was added to make the phrase more catchy and easy to remember. Tater tots are known differently in various places. You may have heard of the terms “potato toes,” “potato nuggets,” or “baby potatoes.”

Nowadays, tater tots are among the most popular and most consumed frozen foods in the United States. Americans consume around 4 billion pieces of tater tots or approximately 32 million kilograms in one year.

Some companies are trying to make tater tats healthier by replacing potatoes with more healthy and more nutritious veggies like cauliflower and broccoli.

The history of tater tats is humbling. Who would have thought that a futile attempt to reuse scrap potatoes would lead to the invention of a well-loved and million worth delicacy?

The tater tots timeline

  1. 1953
    The Invention of Tater Tots

    In 1953, the Griggs siblings invented tater tots. It was a result of their attempt to use leftover slivers of potatoes. 

  2. 1956
    Out in the Market

    After their invention in 1953, the brothers focused on developing their new product. Then, in 1956, tater tots were offered on the market commercially.

  3. 1955
    Naming Game

    The Griggs was not sure what to name their new product. So, they held a naming contest to get some ideas. Clora Lay Orton was declared the winner. Her description loosely translates to “young potatoes” or “baby potatoes.”

  4. 2020
    Veggie Tots

    In 2020, green companies, vegetarians, and vegetable companies will try to make healthier versions of tater tots. For example, they tried to replace potatoes with healthier substitutes like broccoli and cauliflower.

  5. Present
    Americans Love Tater Tots

    Americans fell in love with tater tots. Data says Americans can eat up to 4 billion pieces of tater tots in a year. That is roughly around 32 million kilograms.

Where were the frst tater tots invented?

The first tater tots were invented and served in the potato plantation of the Griggs in Northern Oregon, United States.

The importance of tater tots

  • Tots are easy

    People love tater tots because they are effortless to prepare. You can deep fry them, bake them in the oven, or heat them in the microwave. Whatever your choice is, you’ll have delicious tots in less than 10 minutes.

  • Tots are versatile 

    You can have tater tots for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. They are the perfect side dish for literally anything in your fridge. They are also ideal for any dip.

  • Nostalgia Factor

    Parents love to serve tater tots to their children because of nostalgia. Apparently, something is satisfying (and quite emotional) in seeing your kids eat the same snacks you ate when you were young.

  • It’s yummy

    More than anything else, people love tater tots because they are delicious. They are crispy, salty, and greasy. They may not be very healthy, but they are indeed yummy. 

The tater tots by the numbers

  • 18A single piece of tater tots contains 18 calories. So, 10 pieces have more or less 180 calories. If you’re on a diet, you better start counting.
  • 70Americans are crazy about tater tots. They consume nearly 70 million pounds of tater tots every year. That’s heavier than the entire population of Texas!
  • 6Initially, tater tots have 6 flavors or varieties: crispy crowns, original, mini, onion, extra crispy easy, and extra crispy.
  • 2008Ore-Ida was sued in 2008 for not properly informing the consumers of the potentially cancer-causing chemicals found in tater tots. As a result, they agreed to lessen the levels of acrylamide and pay $600,000 as a penalty.

Five facts about the tater tots

  • Different Nicknames

    Tater tots are a famous dish worldwide. Different countries named tater tots differently. It was called potato gems in Australia, tot-lovers in New Zealand, spud puppies in Canada, and oven crunchies in the UK.

  • No No to Homemade Tater Tots

    Usually, homemade food tastes better than store-bought. However, this is not the case with tater tots. The whole process of making them will take you around 12 hours. And homemade tater tots are not as delicious as frozen stuff.

  • Tater Tots Festival

    Ontario, Oregon, the birthplace of Tater Tots, celebrates Tater Tot Festival every August. The theme, games, contests, and events centered on potatoes and Tater Tots.

  • Longest Line

    Disney World has several food carts. But, the longest line constantly forms for the Tater Tots, according to Disney food bloggers.

  • Comfort Food

    Minnesotans consider tater tot hotdish as their to-go comfort food. Try asking around Minnesota, and you’ll get this answer 95% of the time.

FAQs about tater tots

  • What are tater tots?

    Tater tots are primarily grated and mashed potato combined with seasonings and flour. They are shaped like nuggets and are usually served as a side dish.

  • What are tater tots called in the UK?

    Tater tots have a lot of names in different countries, but in England, it is usually called “potato crunchies” or sometimes “oven crunchies.”

  • Are tater tots healthy?

    Even though tater tots’ primary ingredient is potato, it doesn’t mean it is already healthy because of its high fat and sodium content.

  • Are tater tots junk food?

    Generally speaking, yes. Tater tots are considered junk food because they are fried, greasy, and salty. They also contain chemicals that are potential carcinogens.

  • Can dogs eat tater tots?

    Tater tots are toxic for dogs, so you must not feed tots to your pet. However, if you accidentally fed your dogs some tater tots, please visit your veterinarian.

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