Companies have tried for years to create a french fry vending machine with little success, until now. Fry Manufacturing’s co-owners, Mike Ruggiero and Jeff Fuller from Laurel, Del., have succeeded, and the state of Delaware is helping them try to prove it, the Delmarva Media Group reported.
Late in Delaware’s budget process last month, Democratic Sen. Robert L. Venables, a neighbor of one of the company’s co-owners, added a $50,000 line item for Fry Manufacturing LLC to produce a model for what some call the vending-machine equivalent of the Holy Grail. With the money from the state’s fund, the pair hope to launch a manufacturing venture that they say could eventually employ up to 300 people.
The Senator said the project holds great potential to boost employment in western Sussex County. “There’s nothing like it in the world,” said Venables, who chairs the Legislature’s Bond Bill Committee. “The potential is really, really big.”
Fry Manufacturing said it will demonstrate a prototype to officials from the Delaware Economic Development Office, probably in late August. If all goes as planned they would then seek state help to start an assembly plant.
Ruggiero and Fuller said they already have had interest from several convenience-store chains, and that they have overcome the technological hurdles that have plagued other manufacturers.
Other companies have tried to create vending machines that heat frozen fries by convection, heat lamps and so on. A Spanish company, Restaurant Technology SA, produces a 6-foot, 700-pound vending machine that cooks frozen fries, but its products are far from widespread.
“That’s the main problem: You can’t immerse a frozen french fry in hot oil” without inviting a host of technical difficulties, Ruggiero said. Using frozen fries means combining a freezer unit and a fryer in the same machine, which raises the problems inherent in shipping and storing frozen fries.
Fry Manufacturing’s machine would use a proprietary mix of dehydrated, 100% russet potatoes, which are then rehydrated, extruded into 4-inch french fries, cooked and then dispensed into a cup, all in 48 seconds.
That version is expected to receive its full patent in a matter of days. It draws on the earlier Tasty Fries machine, a coin-operated vending unit the size of a soda machine, which used the same potato mix, but had different internal workings.
The Laurel company’s machine is a countertop unit less than 30 inches square. Ruggiero and Fuller envision selling or leasing machines that could wind up in convenience stores and similar venues nationwide.