Digging for the Best

Understanding the National Fry Processing Trial program

Published in the January 2014 Issue Published online: Jan 17, 2014 David Parish, NFPT Program Manager
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The driving force behind the National Fry Processing Trials (NFPT) Project was a common objective held by the processing industry. That objective was to lower acrylamide levels in the finished product. There were many things the industry was looking at and working on, and one of them was the raw material. As this was a desire for the entire industry with many of the same customers, the processors, state organizations, suppliers and customers got together and decided this would be something they would all work together on so it would happen more quickly if they all pulled their resources together.

So, the different stakeholders pulled together a steering committee to look into how to approach the objective. There were breeders, processors, state organizations, researchers, USPB and quick-service restaurants (QSRs) on the steering committee. They looked at how varieties come to market and decided they wanted to have a national view of all the different varieties in the state and regional programs. So they took what was being done in the various states, came up with a set of items they wanted to identify, created a common list that everyone supported, identified trial locations and began to look for funding and program management.

The program is funded from three sources:

Processors, state grower organizations and the USPB. Current budget is $350,000 per year.

To clear up any confusion, the NFPT is not designed to identify what the customer wants. The program is targeting the identification of low acrylamide-forming potato varieties that meet key attributes identified by the key stakeholders, such as specific gravity, length-to-width ratio, size distribution, yield, acrylamide and storage capability.

The program has identified several varieties that look promising and are entering different stages of continued development within the industry, ranging from seed production to larger-scale testing. The NFPT Program is a variety identification program; any commercialization efforts will take place outside the NFPT Program. The processors and producers involved decide which varieties they would like to further develop after they have been identified as having high potential for commercialization within the NFPT.

The QSR analysis, conducted by J.R. Simplot Company, is a first step at trying to identify varieties that may have the potential to make a QSR fry. There are several varieties that appear to have potential. They include, but are not limited to:

• ND8229-3 - Dakota Russet

• A02424-83LB

• A02507-2LB

• AC96052-1RU

• AC99375-1RUS

• AF4296-3

• AF4342-3

• ND060735-4

• W8152-1RUS

• W8946-1RUS

• W9604-1RUS

The QSR capability is one component or attribute required for a variety to meet the industry’s needs in a capable raw material. There are numerous other requirements that must be met before a potato would be considered acceptable for commercialization.

The chip and fry industries are both looking for varieties that have the lowest levels of acrylamide that are reasonably possible. If one wants to know a specific number, the quickest way to an answer is likely in contacting individual companies and asking them specifically what their standards are. The chip industry is looking for the same attributes as the fry industry: specific gravity, storability up north, yield and disease tolerance, among other things.

While different individuals will obviously learn different things from this project, one of the biggest takeaways is the power of collaboration. All facets of the industry are working on a common objective, same as before, but now working on it with a common voice and platform. Everyone is looking at the same trial information, the same lab analysis, the same QSR analysis and meeting collectively to find something better for the industry and for the consumer, to advance the entire industry.

In that, everyone still competes, but they are competing in a better, more sustainable industry with better raw material. All this will help the industry win consumers with their products. This collaboration adds velocity to what was being done on the state and local levels because everyone gets to see the same information at the same time across all major growing regions. With this replication of information, everyone up and down the supply chain can make decisions faster about which varieties to advance, and because they share in the cost, it is something everyone can afford to do. Doing this alone does not provide a solution for the bigger national customers, and it is expensive. But because of the great collaboration, this is working.