Challenging Times for Mashed Potatoes and Hash Browns
Although demand for potato flakes and associated products are declining at present, the sector should recover as the global situation improves, reports Jonathan Thomas.
Dehydrated potato flakes continue to represent a key food ingredient throughout the world. These are manufactured either by drum drying a thin layer of cooked and mashed potatoes, or by air-drying into granules. During this process, manufacturers may incorporate additives and ingredients to improve product attributes such as texture, color/appearance and shelf-life. Potato flakes are widely used in the worldwide food manufacturing industry, offering benefits such as water and oil retention, as well as thickening properties.
According to latest trade estimates, the global market for dehydrated potato flakes was worth over USD17bn in value terms during 2019. Over the next decade, global market value is forecast to increase by an annual average of around 7%. At present, consumption is heavily skewed towards parts of the world such as North America, Brazil and Japan and the Asia-Pacific region. In recent years, demand has been aided by the growth of the processed foods industry in many of the world’s emerging economies (e.g. China and India), while potato flakes are also gaining increasing acceptance as a substitute for cornstarch to add volume to foods such as soups and sauces. One important use for dehydrated potato flakes is in the production of foods such as instant mashed potato, hash browns and potato croquettes. These are purchased by customers in sectors such as retail, foodservice and industrial throughout much of the world. Recent activity from manufacturers has included the development of new products emphasizing the provenance of their ingredients (e.g. via the use of locally sourced potatoes) or experimenting with different formats and/or flavors. Until the effects of the coronavirus started to impact upon the global food industry in 2020, sales of these potato-based products remained strong, especially via foodservice channels. While a drop in demand is anticipated for the next 12 months or so, the market appears well placed to recover during the middle to long term.
Effects of Coronavirus
It seems highly likely that demand for products such as hash browns will experience a fall in 2020 due to coronavirus and its effects. Much of this will probably stem from the closure of many foodservice outlets during much of the second quarter, which in turn has reduced demand for many types of frozen potato products – it is chiefly for this reason that North American potato production is expected to decrease by up to 30% during 2020. In Canada’s Manitoba province, for example, manufacturers such as McCain and JR Simplot have scaled back contracts with farmers due to this drop in demand. Even when operators such as McDonalds began to re-open their outlets in May 2020, breakfast items like hash browns have generally been unavailable.
On a more positive note, however, the closure of much of the foodservice industry has resulted in growth of the number of meals being eaten within the home. In the UK, for example, Kantar estimates that the number of in-home meals eaten in UK households during the lockdown period has increased by over 500 million per week. Snacking occasions account for a leading 39% of these additional meals, ahead of lunchtime (32%), dinner (23%) and breakfast (6%). Without the morning rush (caused by closed schools and people working from home), it appears that consumers are inclined to take more time to prepare bigger and more leisurely breakfasts, such as cooked varieties.
You can read the rest of this article in your complimentary e-copy of the May-June Issue of Potato Processing International magazine, which you can access by clicking here.