I don’t personally know anyone who dislikes potatoes, but this elusive species does exist, I’m told. If you don’t like potatoes (in some form or other), you be freaky IMHO, but also, you do you. Who am I to judge, I think avocados are gross.
The humble potato is an unusual ingredient – it’s delicious, easily available, and incredibly popular almost everywhere around the world. It’s been a staple food helping millions through famines and uncertain economic times. But few of us would point to the potato when referring to any aspect of health.
Well, all that may be set to change.
Spoonshot attended the IFT First expo in Chicago in July 2022, where Kishan, our CEO, presented our 2023 trends. Do sign up for the Trends 2023 and Beyond webinar here and download the full report here.
At IFT, there were a number of different companies showcasing their various potato-derived ingredients. These were not just consumer products, like ready-to-use frozen or fried versions; they were nutrients derived from potatoes. Essentially, ingredient companies are now starting to look beyond the obvious and are finding novel uses for this root vegetable.
Consumer and business interest in potatoes
Based on Spoonshot’s data, tracking the interest in potatoes reveals nothing special at first glance, except that it’s far more popular among consumers than among businesses. This isn’t shocking since most households are likely to buy potatoes in its natural form. Consumer interest in potatoes grew 32.3% between January 2016 and June 2022, and by 7.6% in the 12 months to June 2022. Potatoes are popular, cheap, and available pretty much everywhere, covering the basic tenets of why certain food products see brisk sales – taste, affordability, and convenience (or access).
When we looked at the business side, things started to get a little interesting. While business interest has remained flat for the most part, the last year has seen a bit of action – in the 12 months to June 2022, business interest in potatoes grew by 24.1%, with a predicted growth of 17.5% for the coming 12 months. And this surge in interest is in line with what we saw on the ground at IFT FIRST – potato protein, potato fiber, and potato starch for a number of different use cases within the food industry.
So, let’s dive in.
Marraquin Organic showed off their potato fiber incorporated into two different product types – baked into a baguette and into a breakfast cereal. If they hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have known at all. Generally, baked foods with added fiber tend to be quite dense, but these products were quite light.
The company, a part of the Agrana Group, is a supplier of a range of organic ingredients used during food manufacturing, including starches, sweeteners, fibers, proteins, lecithins, yeasts, among others.
Fibers are used in food production for a number of reasons, including for their ability to retain moisture, stabilize particles in liquids, in addition to boosting nutritional value.These fibers also have a neutral taste and smell, and thus won’t add any unwanted flavors into finished goods.
The company’s representatives at the booth further told me that the fibers they provide are extracted from potato products that would otherwise have gone to waste, adding that element of sustainability and food waste reduction that has become so important today.
Our data shows that consumer interest in fiber is twice as high as business interest, indicating that this is an area with a lot of scope for growth for companies. And consumer demand is a surefire way to get companies revving up the innovation engine.
In the 12 months to June 2022, consumer interest in fiber grew by 12.8% and business interest grew by 10.5%
Potato for keto?! What is particularly interesting about this potato fiber is that Marraquin Organic positions it as a keto-complaint ingredient, not an association one would normally make with the carb-heavy potato. The company is quite bullish on keto and a few of their other products had keto-friendly messaging, including low-carb ingredients.
And our analysis of social media conversations indicates that the keto diet is still going strong among certain consumers. It is the most frequently talked about diet across online consumer conversations.
Another moment of cognitive dissonance for me came from Lodaat Pharma’s potato starch with gut health claims. The company’s ingredient, called PotatoDaat, is a prebiotic resistant starch derived from potatoes, with 78% resistant starch by weight. This ingredient can be incorporated into a number of food and drink products.
Resistant starch is an insoluble dietary fiber that is found naturally in uncooked grains, whole grain, unripe bananas, pulses, and so on. It helps slow down digestion and lower glycemic index. From a food manufacturing perspective, potato starch offers multiple functions, including as a texturizer, filler, or thickener.
Lodaat’s healthy gut microbiome claim is backed by a 2019 study from the University of Michigan which found that resistant potato starch fared better in terms of increasing butyrate levels compared to resistant corn starch and inulin from chicory root. The company is said to have worked with the researchers to develop their proprietary starch specifically aimed at increasing butyrate levels.
Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid produced during microbial digestion of carbohydrates or dietary fiber (aka prebiotics) in the large intestine. Studies have indicated that this metabolite plays a vital role in gut health, immune health, and in protecting the body against a host of other issues as well as promoting the feeling of fullness. This means that it has potential as a weight management ingredient as well.
So, I’m going to see if I can make the gut-potato axis a thing.
Over the last couple of years, consumer interest in gut health has exceeded business interest, pointing to gaps that are just waiting to be filled.
In the 12 months to June 2022, consumer interest in gut health grew by 39.3%, while business interest grew by 22.2%
Last but not least, potatoes are also now being sought after for their protein.
Yep, potatoes have protein.
Admittedly it’s a small quantity compared to other more traditional sources of plant protein.
But it’s there.
And it’s complete, which means that it has all nine essential amino acids needed by the human body to function.
But you’d have to eat a lot of potatoes to get the benefits of this (like 5-10 a day, depending on the size, variety, and so on).
That’s a lot of caveats.
Dutch company Royal Avebe is one of the first companies you would have seen at IFT, given that it was right up near the entrance. The company is an ingredient supplier whose main raw material is potato and it is one of the leading producers of potato protein. In addition to offering a nutritional benefit, this ingredient also has other features desirable for food production, including foaming, gelling, and emulsification properties.
Avebe’s protein allows for a lot of high-demand claims to be used, from vegan, halal, and kosher to non-GMO and low allergenicity. This last one is likely to appeal to a lot of plant-based consumers looking for non-allergenic protein options.
Potato protein is still a fairly niche ingredient, far more prevalent among businesses than consumers. Given how specialized the ingredient is, it’s not surprising. Spoonshot classifies potato protein isolates as an ingredient with a high novelty score.
In the 12 months to June 2022, consumer interest in potato protein declined, while business interest grew by 19.8%
However, potato protein has significant potential due to its neutral taste and odour, especially in the alternative protein or plant protein space. At present a major challenge for legume-based plant protein producers is the aftertaste. In fact, the top use for potato protein within retail products in the dairy alternatives space.
Distribution of products containing potato protein isolates, by sub-category
The only major challenge for potato protein now is the price, since potatoes have only a limited amount of protein to offer. In the coming years, we expect to see a lot more interest in high-protein potato variants.
Ranjana works as the Lead Research Analyst for Spoonshot. Her past experience includes working with a major global market research company, specializing in food and drink trends. She has also worked with major publications as a writer and editor.