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Potato packing processing & frozen french fries manufacturing
A little more than one-third of all potatoes grown in the US are manufactured into frozen products, 85 percent of which are French fries. Spurred by decades of explosive growth within the quick service restaurant industry (QSRs), processed potato products, which include frozen, chipped, dehydrated, and canned, became the major movers in the potato market, led by frozen French fries.
The share of potatoes consumed as frozen products rose from 27 percent in 1970-74 to 44 percent in 2015-19. Typically, about one-tenth of frozen French fries are sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets.
McCrum just opened North America’s newest fry processing plant
Growing potatoes in northern Maine is nothing new to the McCrum family. However, opening North America’s newest fry processing plant during COVID-19 was something the McCrum family was not expecting when they started planning for their expansion in early 2019.
Now with six generations of farming in Aroostook County in Maine to their name, the McCrums started processing their own potatoes in Belfast, Maine, in 2004 after purchasing Penobscot Frozen Foods. This acquisition made them one of the largest suppliers of specialty potato products in North America. As the business grew, opening a fry plant was the natural next step.
The new facility in Washburn started processing in late June 2020 and has contracted in excess of 1 million cwt of potatoes to get the plant up and running through 2020. The plant has capacity to use a substantial percentage of the Maine potato crop on an annual basis.
Says Jay McCrum, CEO and fourth generation farmer: “We are in the business of producing natural, quality potatoes, and potato products from farm to fork. Maine is known for its natural resources across the country, and we take great pride in ensuring that quality experience is enjoyed wherever our potatoes are served.”
With their unique position in owning the complete potato supply chain from fields to distribution, McCrum gets to set and meet quality standards at each touch point in the process. A competitive advantage even the next generation of McCrums get excited talking about.
Dayna McCrum, business analyst and eldest of the McCrum 6th generation: “Many fry processors work with hundreds of growers across a large region. By being able to grow our potatoes and work with select growers in our community, we can ensure top level quality throughout our product line. Adding fries to our product mix brings an incredible amount of value to our customers as well as those who have dedicated their livelihoods to the Maine potato industry.”
The McCrums credit the ability to open the new state of the art manufacturing facility to decades of good business decisions, great business partners and the sustainable region of their farming acreage.
Says Jay McCrum: “Not many people get the opportunity to open this kind of facility. For our family to see our potatoes come to life in this form, promote Maine and our fellow growers in this way, is something that we are really fortunate to do.”
While navigating the project’s completion through the coronavirus pandemic did lead to some challenges, but completion for the facility was done on time, and added job stability to the region when it was truly needed.
US potato exports still strong
In a news release issued earlier today, Potatoes USA says that US potato exports for the July 2019 – June 2020 marketing year (MY20), declined 2.6% in value and 2.2% for the fresh weight equivalent volume from the previous year’s record levels. These declines were due to the losses in sales during March – June due to the reduction in demand caused by the global pandemic.
According to Potatoes USA, exports started the marketing year very strong and were above MY19 levels through February. Exports began to decline in March with the largest reductions in June. However, many countries in Asia are now reopening and product that got backed up when restaurants and other establishments started closing in February have now been drawn down.
It is expected that while exports for July and August will be below year-ago levels, the reductions should not be as great as they were in May and June.
The volume of US exports of frozen potato products was down 4.28% for the marketing year. The declines were relatively evenly dispersed across markets, but of note were declines of 27% to China, 17% to Vietnam, 13% to Central America, and 6% to the Philippines. On the positive side, exports to Mexico were up 12% due to the recovery from significant losses the previous year from the 20% retaliatory tariff. Exports to Taiwan (which managed to avoid any significant COVID related restrictions) were up 7%, Thailand up 6%, and Japan up 0.2%.
The volume of US dehydrated potato exports managed to end the year up 0.77%. Significant declines of 25% to Thailand, 20% to the Philippines, 11% to Taiwan, and 24% to Central America were offset by a 31% increase to the EU, a 23% increase to northern Africa and the Middle East, and a 32% increase to South Korea.
The volume of US fresh potato exports dropped 3.67% for the marketing year due to a 5% decline to Canada, a 3% decline to Mexico, a 31% decline to Japan, and a 45% decline to Korea. Increases to several other markets helped make up for these declines, notably a 60% increase to the Philippines, a 34% increase to Taiwan, a 25% increase to Malaysia, and a 45% increase to Costa Rica. Fresh potato exports include both table-stock and chip-stock, as well as potatoes destined for frozen processing in Canada.
In an article published earlier this week – Global potato statistics: An overview – I explained that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) maintains a databasis on many different crops, named FAOSTAT. It provides free access to food and agriculture data for over 245 countries and territories and covers all FAO regional groupings from 1961 to the most recent year available, which is at the moment 2018.
I extracted potato production data from FAOSTAT for countries located in four broad regions in the world (based on FAO’s classification criteria), and present the data in the tables below. The data pertains to countries located in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. Total world potato production in 2018 was 368,168,914 metric tonnes, according to FAOSTAT data.
Readers can visit the FAOSTAT website and perform their own searches of the database as preferred – the English version can be accessed here: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data
Australia and New Zealand, two important potato producing countries, are not included in the regions here, so we provide their data here: According to FAOSTAT data, Australia produced a total of 1,188,655 tonnes of potatoes in 2018, and New Zealand a total of 511,776 tonnes.
Please note: The FAOSTAT data presented here might not exactly correlate with the official data provided by government and/or industry organizations for some countries, but it should be close enough.
Belgapom introduces its ambassador for Belgian fries in Mexico during the economic mission
During the Belgian economic mission led by Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid, the Belgian potato sector featured prominently in the large delegation representing the Belgian food sector under the banner: ‘Food.be, small country, great food’.
Sharply increasing export of Belgian frozen fries to Mexico
Belgium is the largest exporter of frozen potatoes in the world and export to Mexico is rising visibly. And on this market, that is traditionally oriented towards North America, Belgium is already the third largest importer of frozen fries. Last year, Belgian export rose by 282 % to around 10,000 tonnes.
The Belgian companies want to invest further in this growth market, especially now the NAFTA between the USA, Canada and Mexico will be replaced by the USMCA at the beginning of 2020 and the impact of this on trade relations between the USA and Mexico is still unclear.
Belgapom is also examining the phytosanitary possibilities of facilitating the export of fresh potatoes to Mexico. After all, that country only produces 65 % of the potatoes it needs.
Successful Belgapom press event
During a well-attended press event organised in cooperation with FIT which was introduced by the Belgian Ambassador in Mexico, Mr Antoine Evrard, in the presence of the Minister for Economic Affairs for the Walloon Region Mr Pierre-Yves Jeholet, Mr Philippe Muyters, the Minister for Economic Affairs for the Flemish Region, positioned the Flemish and Belgian potato chain in the framework of rich tradition and cooperation and constant innovation efforts.
He illustrated this using the cooperation of Belgapom and the companies of the Flemish spearhead cluster Flanders Food, where numerous innovative projects have started up. Various company projects are also running via Wagralim in Wallonia. The sector also believes in artificial intelligence as VITO’s WatchITgrow project shows. In addition to monitoring the potato plots using satellite photography, in the next few years the idea is to develop online cultivation advice based on a broad database that can integrate all the newly developed disease control models. This should offer further opportunities for sustainable potato cultivation in the Belgian potato region, with its central location in the European potato-growing region.
The new pilot factory in Kortrijk within the context of the Veg-I-Tec Interreg-project should stimulate innovation with regard to processes and products in the Belgian potato and vegetable processing sectors.
James Bint, the ambassador of the Belgian “frietkot” culture now also in Mexico
Finally, Belgapom Secretary-General Romain Cools provided an overview of the Belgian potato chain, with emphasis on the typically Belgian “frietkot” culture. This authenticity – recognised as national, cultural heritage – together with the dynamic nature of the entire potato chain forms the basis of this unique sector. The Belgian potato-processing sector now also wants to enable the Mexican consumer to enrich the rich variety of street food with real ‘papas fritas belgas’.
Some 20 food journalists and bloggers put it to the test and together with the invited guests enjoyed delicious fries served in a traditional Belgian cone with a Mexican chipotle sauce. A refreshing Belgian beer and a few delicious Belgian chocolates rounded off the tasting. And the Belgian ambassador of the “frietkot” culture, James Bint, saw that it was good.
Belgian fries were also present at the ‘Sabores de Bélgica’ event, organised by AWEX, of the Belgian food sector, at which the companies Agristo and Mydibel were present. And naturally the well-attended closing reception in the historic setting of the Colegio de San Ildefonso in the Centro Histórico of Mexico City could not be rounded off without a bag of Belgian fries and a selfie with James Bint.
Extra wavy fries thanks to new cutting machine
Lamb Weston/Meijer started using the new production line this year. The current factory was expanded to install a completely new production line for premium frozen potato products.
The producer of frozen potato products and dried potato flakes has invested 120 million euro into the renewed factory. The existing production line of Lamb Weston/Meijer, or LWM, was thoroughly modernised, and a second production line was realised. In order to achieve this, the current factory was extensively expanded. Per year, up to 500,000 tonnes of potatoes from the Southwestern Netherlands will be processed into frozen fries and other frozen potato specialities. Four machines from machinery manufacturer FAM were ordered for the production unit in Bergen op Zoom.
FAM has introduced at least eight new machines in the past two years. One of those machines is the FAM Tridis 240P, designed especially for the frozen fries industry. “The Tridis 240P has been tested and approved in cooperation with prominent Flemish frozen companies, and LWM,” according to Niels van Laer from FAM. He explained that the machines in the factory will process tonnes of potatoes into wavy fries, both regular and deep wavy, every day. “This cut is better-known as Ziggy Fries by the consumers, it is a very crunchy fry with a structured outer side and soft substance on the inside.” This special cut of the Ziggy Fries requires a machine that can perfectly guide and cut the potato in order to realise the same shape on all sides.
Enormous amounts of potatoes are processed into cubes, fries and other shapes annually in the factory in Bergen op Zoom. Van Laer: “One of the most important performance indicators for LWM is therefore the maintenance of the machine. The frozen industry needs a robust and reliable machine that can guarantee minimal stagnation. The FAM Tridis 240P stands out because of its sliding electrical case, which offers easy access to the drive and because of its pattern system for dismantling the axles and bearings. Besides cutting quality, it is therefore also important that the machine can be easily maintained.”
Limiting cutting waste
According to Armand Butijn, Corporate Project Engineer for Lamb Weston, the Tridis 240P easily meets those requirements. “Cutting efficiency also plays a large part. It is even more important to limit cutting waste and loss of starch as much as possible with high volumes. If cell structure of potatoes is damaged during the cutting, it will result in the potato losing starch and moisture. This is often a problem for large processing lines.” The FAM Tridis 240P limits cutting loss to a minimum as a result of the optimum product passage with high passage speeds and a minimum distance to traverse.
For more information:
Niels Van Laer
Orango Sweet Potato Beer: Drinking it straight from the earth
Nigerian sweet potato cultivation leads to chips, beer, and fries product range
'Adding value, creating wealth' is Farmforte's business philosophy, with Nigerian sweet potatoes as their core-product. With this, they look into opportunities to add extra value. Quickly a sweet potato product range was ready to enter the market. It now has three products - chips, fries, and beer.
"The sweet potato beer idea was entirely aimed at trade shows. Farmforte wanted to offer leading products. It was surprisingly successful. In Berlin, Fruit Logistica stallholders came from Hall 1 to Hall 26 in the morning to taste our beer. That says it all. Besides this phenomenon, there is also already interest from 22 countries worldwide. Again, just for the beer," says André Schaap.
The tale of the process behind the beer is also worth telling. "It all began in a little shed with 20l at a time. After five different sweet potato beers - there was Orango. But, 20l? Let's be honest; after one good evening, that is all gone, right? So, we decided to scale up. From 20 to 2,000l in three months. That is unheard of, but that is also the Farmforte way of thinking. We see products' value and use that to the fullest."
"Now we had 2,000l of specialty beer. There is, of course, a big difference between this beer and lager. It is a beer we can proudly present. Many people cannot get enough of it. It is a fresh, blond 6.5% beer made from Nigerian sweet potatoes. These potatoes make for an extremely soft, smooth drink. It is also a little dry after each sip. That ensures a quick next sip. Do not worry; there is no hole in the bottom of the glass. This beer is simply so good that your glass empties quickly. But, we have enough," explains André, enthusiastically.
The Orango brand consists of beer, chips, and fries. It is not just about sales, but also investment. For every Orango product sold, a portion goes to the Farmforte Charity. This charity invests in the local Nigerian community. So far, a school, toilet facilities, and a curing center have been built." These new facilities have improved the local people's living conditions."
Here is a film about the process. "The beer will soon be available to order online on the Orango webshop too," concludes André.
For more information:
Farm Forte Europe
Tel: +31 (0) 522 726 681
Fresh cut fries continue to grow in popularity
Progressive Produce's year-round Hollywood Fries program continues to grow, and its premium frying potato has seen tremendous demand as the food service industry adjusts to the "new normal."
"More and more restaurants recognize the value of adding "fresh cut" fries to their menu. Not just as financial value, but a culinary one as well," says Gary Askenaizer, Product Manager for Progressive Produce.
This summer, the company expects its Washington crop to start up nicely as its fields in California start to close at the end of July. While the growing season in Idaho has been a little bumpy due to weather variations, the company's grower is pleased with how things are progressing. The next 45 days will tell the tale, and with the right growing conditions, Progressive expects to have excellent quality and size for its fall crop like last year.
Right: Gary Askenaizer.
"We have gotten better and better at producing a consistent, high-quality product that our customers can depend on every year," says Askenaizer. Product is packed in 50-pound cartons and shipped from Progressive's centrally-located facility in Commerce, CA. "The growth in our business reflects the results of our efforts."
Progressive will be highlighting its premium Hollywood Fries brand in the "Fresh Ideas in Produce" theatre at the Produce Marketing Association's Foodservice: Delivered show happening July 20-24, 2020.
french fries fresh cut potato packing
Aviko acquires Chinese french fries producer Hongyuan Louis
Dutch-based company Aviko, one of Europe’s largest producers of fresh, frozen, dried and specialty potato products and part of Royal Cosun, has reached an agreement with Hongyuan Agriculture to acquire 90% of its shares in Hongyuan Louis.
Hongyuan Louis is a relatively young producer of frozen French fries located in Xilinhot, North of Bashang in China. The deal includes a factory with an annual capacity of 50.000 tons, potato storages, a semi-automatic cold store, boiler house, waste-water treatment and around 170 employees. Hongyuan Agriculture will stay involved as a 10% shareholder and closely cooperate with Aviko on amongst others the sourcing of potato.
Aviko has been active in China since 2007 with production activities in Gansu. In recent years, Aviko has successfully established a strong commercial distribution network for frozen potato products throughout China with a sales head office in Shanghai. Today, Aviko is recognized as one of the leading international brands for frozen potato products.
“With an average market growth for frozen fries of 10% per year, China is of major strategic importance to Aviko. For us, the acquisition of Hongyuan Louis is just the perfect opportunity to complement our already strong Chinese commercial position with modern local production facilities”, says CEO Aviko Group Chris Deen. “This deal will help us gain and sustain a prominent market position in China”.
More and more Chinese customers are embracing Western culture, fashion and habits. This also translates into a rapidly growing popularity of western oriented menu’s. Potatoes and potato products such as French fries are increasingly becoming a favorite part of daily nutrition.
“This acquisition fits perfectly in Cosun’s ambition to have a leading position in plant-based solutions. We believe that plant-based is key to a sustainable future for next generations. That is why we are committed to the growth strategy of Aviko, taking full advantage of the growing global markets for potato products”, says Albert Markusse, CEO Cosun.
With activities in more than 110 countries and production locations in The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Poland and China, Aviko is the fourth biggest potato products producing company in the world. The company is part of Royal Cosun, a 2-plus billion Euro Dutch cooperative, active in plant-based food, food & pet food ingredients, circular feed, biobased solutions and green energy.
US demand for frozen French fries may be improving faster than anticipated
A May 27 report by North American Potato Market News states that signs are showing that frozen fry demand is improving quicker than the industry had anticipated.
The lack of foodservice demand due to COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions has created a well-documented backup in the potato supply chain. Despite being reduced to drive-thru only in many areas, Wendy’s sales were down just 2.1%, year-over-year, the week ending May 2.
n addition, fry processors moved 112.8 million pounds of freezer stocks during April, which was the largest movement during the month since 1993, NAPMN reported. That may be related to production downtime, however. For example, a Lamb Weston plant in Washington closed temporarily last month due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19. McCain also has confirmed layoffs at Canadian facilities.
Restaurant chain sales in the U.S. improved five consecutive weeks from early April to mid-May, although were still down 21%, year-over-year, the week ending May 17. Some states are starting to allow sit-down restaurants to reopen, if even at 50% capacity, in areas where the virus is less prominent.
With schools still shuttered and nonessential travel greatly reduced, foodservice demand won’t approach normal for the foreseeable future. However, produceprocessing.net claims there are small signs pointing in the right direction.
Third of US-grown potatoes turned into frozen french fries
A little more than one-third of all potatoes grown in the US are manufactured into frozen products, 85 percent of which are french fries. Spurred by decades of explosive growth within the quick service restaurant industry (QSRs), processed potato products, which include frozen, chipped, dehydrated, and canned, became the major movers in the potato market, led by frozen french fries.
The share of potatoes consumed as frozen products rose from 27 percent in 1970-74 to 44 percent in 2015-19. Typically, about one-tenth of frozen french fries are sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets.
Europe: Country production (metric tonnes) – FAOSTAT, 2018
1. Ukraine22,503,9702. Russian Federation22,394,9603. Germany8,920,8004. France7,870,9735. Poland7,478,1846. Netherlands6,029,7347. Belarus5,865,1238. United Kingdom5,028,0009. Belgium3,045,44310. Romania3,022,75811. Spain2,010,93312. Denmark1,806,76613. Italy1,307,59814. Sweden720,20015. Austria697,93116. Finland600,30017. Czechia583,56018. Serbia487,90919. Greece465,77020. Portugal431,68621. Latvia426,90022. Switzerland417,15623. Bosnia and Herzegovina394,27424. Hungary330,54525. Norway326,40026. Lithuania296,22927. Ireland273,00028. Bulgaria261,59429. Albania254,54330. Croatia182,26131. North Macedonia181,93132. Republic of Moldova174,77433. Slovakia169,95334. Estonia88,43435. Slovenia72,91736. Montenegro26,09837. Luxembourg16,21138. Malta7,97739. Iceland6,020
The Americas: Country production (metric tonnes) – FAOSTAT, 2018
1. United States of America 20,607,3422. Canada 5,790,8383. Peru 5,121,1104. Brazil 3,688,0295. Colombia 3,107,5806. Argentina 2,340,1037. Mexico 1,802,5928. Chile 1,183,3579. Bolivia 1,160,94010. Guatemala 564,31411. Venezuela 371,74412. Ecuador 269,20113. Cuba 135,14714. Costa Rica 93,56715. Dominican Republic 88,55716. Uruguay 87,00017. Nicaragua 66,16718. Haiti 34,47519. Honduras 26,90420. Panama 23,94121. Jamaica 16,18422. El Salvador 10,59723. Paraguay 3,851
Asia: Country production (metric tonnes) – FAOSTAT, 2018
1. China 90,259,1552. India 48,529,0003. Bangladesh 9,744,4124. Iran 5,321,1885. Pakistan 4,591,7766. Turkey 4,550,0007. Kazakhstan 3,806,9928. Nepal 3,088,0009. Uzbekistan 2,911,93310. North Korea 2,500,00011. Japan 2,261,94512. Kyrgyzstan 1,446,61013. Indonesia 1,284,76214. Tajikistan 964,64415. Azerbaijan 898,91416. Afghanistan 615,68417. South Korea 553,59618. Syria 540,00019. Myanmar 512,44320. Israel 511,16321. Saudi Arabia 482,30522. Armenia 415,05023. Lebanon 387,79124. Vietnam 376,37725. Iraq 294,77826. Turkmenistan 293,53327. Yemen 248,88928. Georgia 237,50029. Jordan 177,43130. Mongolia 168,88331. Thailand 125,10632. Philippines 117,42333. Cyprus 106,45234. Sri Lanka 88,89735. Taiwan 62,28736. Palestine 57,31537. Bhutan 56,79238. Kuwait 36,21239. Oman 15,613
Africa: Country production (metric tonnes) – FAOSTAT, 2018
1. Algeria 4,653,3222. Egypt 4,896,4763. South Africa 2,467,7244. Kenya 1,870,3755. Morocco 1,869,1496. Tanzania 1,768,1547. Nigeria 1,363,3588. Malawi 1,125,8749. Rwanda 847,30210. Angola 806,55211. Ethiopia 743,15312. Sudan 442,98813. Tunisia 423,80014. Libya 348,36115. Mali 310,90216. Cameroon 302,70617. Burundi 302,66518. Mozambique 273,33519. Madagascar 257,37920. Niger 168,56921. Uganda 162,15122. Guinea 151,32623. Lesotho 130,60224. Democratic Republic of the Congo 101,39825. Senegal 79,49926. Zimbabwe 60,52127. Chad 41,58328. Mauritius 17,03329. Namibia 14,52030. Zambia 13,546