50 for 50: Lamb Weston

Published online: Jan 28, 2021 50 for 50, Articles
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Throughout 2021, as part of Potato Grower’s celebration of our 50th year in publication, we will be honoring in our pages and on our website 50 of the potato industry’s most innovative and influential individuals, companies and organizations over the past half-century. This “50 for 50” series will include researchers, salesmen, packers, processors and, of course, plenty of potato growers. A lot of them will be names you’ve heard before. To some, you’ll get a fresh introduction. Regardless, each has had an outsize impact on the U.S. potato industry, and each deserves our thanks and recognition. This article appears in the February 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

For more than 70 years, Lamb Weston has provided frozen fries and other frozen potato products to restaurants and customers all over the world. Headquartered in Eagle, Idaho, Lamb Weston has several manufacturing regions throughout the Pacific Northwest, primarily in the Columbia River Basin. The company employs more than 7,000 people globally, and its products can be found in over 100 countries. 

Perhaps Lamb Weston’s most well-known innovation is the Water Knife, which founder Gib Lamb invented in 1960 and is now industry-standard technology for cutting french fries. A more recent and perhaps just as impressive innovation is Crispy on Delivery fries, which have made home delivery of french fries something to look forward to, rather than a sad, cold, soggy mess.

Lamb Weston has also invested heavily in the agricultural side of producing great fries. It initiated the Columbia Basin Potato Soil Health working group, comprised of processors, commissions and growers to coordinate industry efforts on soil health research and funding. In 2020, the group identified an opportunity to establish an endowed chair position with Washington State University, specifically for the study of potato cropping systems in the Columbia Basin region. 

“Understanding the factors that contribute to soil health and eventually implementing those learnings to improve growing practices for all potato growers is critical to maintaining the Columbia Basin as a cost-competitive growing region for many years into the future,” says the company’s vice president of agriculture services, Steve Bannworth.

Throughout its history, Lamb Weston has prided itself on its ability to effectively communicate the needs of its customers to growers and manufacturing employees at its own sites. 

“We utilize a highly experienced network of regional field managers, supported by our talented general managers at each manufacturing facility, and our corporate agricultural services team, to routinely communicate our valued customers’ requirements,” says Steve Bannworth. “Communications will range from new potato varietal developments and approvals, to raw potato quality attributes and Lamb Weston’s recent ESG program and standards—all of which are enormously important to both the stakeholders of Lamb Weston and our customers.”