Friday, April 06, 2012: 11:54:43 AM

Food Processing Trend

Demand for processed potato foods on a rise

Processed potato foods make for a popular snack option among children and adults alike

One of the most popular vegetables in the planet, the potato is today one of the most processed foods in the world. French fries, chips, rings and several other forms of the vegetable are consumed in baked and fried forms across the globe and new innovations in processing emerge every day.

 
Broadly, potato processing can be divided into three main stages:
 
·         Fresh products such as peeled potatoes, precooked potatoes, potato salads, sterilized potatoes, potato products
·         Dried potato such as dehydrated potatoes, instant mashed potatoes, raw dehydrated potatoes
·         Fried potato such as French fries, chips, sticks
 
The most popular processed potato product, the potato chip, is manufactured through the following processes: washing, peeling, slicing, blanching, frying, sorting and packaging.
 
However, in today’s health conscious market, there are several challenges to prepare these snacks as the oil content can be a deterrent for the products to shine in the market.
 
Renowned food technologist and chairman of Diversified Food Technologies (India), Mysore, Dr V H Potty explains, “The tendency for potato slices to change colour when exposed to air was one of the early technological challenges for the industry, which was found to be due to chemical reaction between sugar and free amino acids present in the potato. While blanching in hot water can inactivate the enzyme system, chemical reaction can be pre-empted only if suitable varieties with low glucose content are used as raw material. Cold stored potatoes, available all year round, cannot be used immediately for chip making as they have high accumulated tissue glucose which has to be brought down by "curing" at ambient temperature for some time. Similarly, potatoes with higher specific gravity, generally the typical feature of a mature crop, can reduce oil content very significantly during frying compared to those with lower specific gravity. Generally raw materials with dry matter content beyond 24% gives low-oil-containing fried chips, while during the preparation thinner the slice higher will be the oil uptake. Pre-gelatinisation before frying proper also can bring down oil absorption by the product during processing.”
 
Popular choice
 
Potato chips and French fries are also quite popular among young children and it is mainly because of attractive packaging and the influence of the Western culture. The packaged potato chips is also among the most popular snacks among adults today in India, thanks to the aggressive marketing strategies of brands like Lay’s.
 
According to Mumbai based professional artist and food expert Barun Kumar Mukherji, “The packaged potato chip has become a common snack among adults who do not want to undergo the hassle of cooking something in the evening. The variety and range available in the market is huge, thanks to the entry of some international players in the Indian market.”
 
While nutritionists may warn against the salt content and calorie count of these wafers, the popularity of the snack increases everyday. It is also important to keep in mind that potato as a vegetable is also highly nutritious and if consumed in less processed forms can be a great source of iron, Vitamin B6 and potassium.
 
Tias Chakraborty

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