A serving of fried, golden-brown perfection is what lies at the end of the road, but it all begins with a seed potato. Back up a little more and you’ll get to the actual source of this story: the wish to create the best possible potato variety. Potato optimisation requires lots of professionals working together to bring customers fries that their guests will love.
Changing times, changing potatoes
Now that the times are a-changing, we have to look towards the future. New socio-cultural and consumer trends predict future demand for potato products, while climate and regulatory changes have a major influence on the capricious raw potato market. “That’s why there’s always work to be done when it comes to creating better potatoes,” Lucy says. “You have to constantly adjust your predictions and chart what you believe to be the right course for the future. Especially when you consider that it can take up to twelve years to breed a new potato variety!”
“New potato varieties have to meet future demand”
Taking risks in growing
Not only does developing a new variety of potatoes take time, but it’s also a risky business wrought with uncertainty. The process all starts with data, market trends, and analysis. In collaboration with the breeders, Lamb Weston / Meijer sets out what traits a new variety should have, after which Lamb Weston / Meijer investigates closely whether a new variety has the potential to become a stellar fry. Testing for commercial processing starts with a selected ‘trial variety grower’. In a 3-year programme, the variety’s agronomical and processing performance are tested, whilst a playbook is developed on how to handle the new variety. A sensory panel then scrutinises the new potato, testing every inch of its contents, looks, and performance. “It’s quite challenging, really,” Lucy admits.
“Out of every fifteen new species, only one or two make the cut.”
It’s all in the fry
Creating a real golden nugget isn’t a task to be taken lightly. For Lamb Weston / Meijer, most variables revolve around creating the perfect potato for fries. “We guarantee a certain minimum length for our French Fry products, which is a big challenge, as length depends on the conditions during the growing season.” Then there’s the underwater weight, which determines how crunchy the fries can get, and the colour is also important. With every new variety, you never fully know how the end product is going to turn out. It’s very important that our customers can serve appetising dishes, so the fries have to look tasty and radiate a golden-brown glow.” New varieties also have to be sustainable, profitable, and future-proof. They must have enough resistance against diseases to ensure a good yield, while needing little water and plant protection products. Last but not least, potatoes must be efficient to grow, store, and process in order to lose as little of their precious goodness as possible.
The end goal is to create a variety that lives up to its potential and meets the demands of future guests. A healthy, well-coloured, and tasty potato that can be used for delicious, crispy fries. Thanks to this ongoing process, we can share the benefits with partners throughout the chain: an ever-more sustainable potato, an efficient process, and a fry that will make your guests hungry for more.
Wasted potatoes or residual products? No thanks! At Lamb Weston / Meijer we use 99% of the potato. That’s why we repurpose our potato peels as cattle feed and starch as a natural coating to keep fries crispy and warm.
Lucy van Rijswijk
As Potato Intelligence and Communication Expert at Lamb Weston / Meijer, Lucy is always on the lookout for useful data, which she combines to advise professionals from field to fork. Whether you’re searching for the latest trends in potatoes or how the weather affects supply and demand, Lucy can tell you everything you need to know.
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