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Potatoes as a Convenience Food

Potatoes are commonly used vegetable worldwide. Sometimes the produce is so huge, that the farmers do not get the right price of the produce. For storage purpose keeping in the Ware house huge amount is to be paid. Due to lack of cheaper facilities available to the farmers, they were compelled to throw away the produce on the road. In Uttar Pradesh, many companies are trying to come out with the alternate sources to utilize the bumper crop to make Vodka. Few Farmers are selling to the multinational companies for making Chips etc. The 4-5 rupees per kilogram potatoes becomes Rs.80/- per kilo after getting converted into chips.

Some times potatoes are not liked by the consumers due to the starch contents. Hence, the consumers started to look for more convenient foods that are traditional staples and thus potatoes became less popular. The pasta and rice marketers designed attractive packaging and sold the products well, while the humble potato didn't really change at all and started to lose market share.

Australians are eating significantly fewer potatoes than a decade ago, but anybody following the progress of the Daly family in southern Tasmania would find that fact hard to believe.

The  Australian company have a big range of products and while most people would have started off with just few different dishes, keeping the risk to a minimum, Susie says that they have the facility and the staff, so they need to use it.

Already a big hit in Tasmania, the range includes servings flavoured with yoghurt and dill, bacon and dijon mustard, mild curry and smoked chicken with seed mustard.

The Daly brand, which has also just launched a microwave-ready roast potato range in Woolworths’ stores, will be in 180 Victorian and NSW supermarkets by November.

And, for consumers who prefer not to eat spuds, the family’s value-adding ingenuity has also won acclaim for a farm-distilled potato vodka, sold under the explosive-sounding brand, Hellfire Bluff.

Ironically, much of the family’s recent success has eventuated because an alarming 20 per cent of their potatoes were not pretty enough to make the grade required for fresh produce sold through supermarkets and wholesalers.

Strict supply contract specifications meant up to 500 tonnes of lumpy, scratched or skin-stained spuds were being fed to the Daly’s 400 Angus cattle every year until Mrs Daly set about finding a much better use of the “ugly” rejects.

The 400 gram potato salad packs retail for $6 each, while Hellfire Bluff potato vodka (40pc alcohol), sells in distinct French-made 700 millilitre glass bottles at almost $90 each.

Since the vodka’s launch mid last year, Hobart’s Salamanca Market has been a mainstay sales point for the Hellfire Bluff brand - now also featuring a vodka-based limoncello liqueur, and a dry gin.

"People began to overlook the potato and forget how versatile it really is," explains Susie Daly from Daly Potatoes, Tasmania. "Schools no longer teach kids how to cook, many people actually don't know what to do with them, also these days people are so busy  that they don't want to stand and peel potatoes and then wait for them to cook. They want a bit of added flair."

Susie came across this as a gap in the market when she was looking for a way to use her 2nd grade potatoes. "My husband and I started growing potatoes around 30 years ago, we started small and have grown slowly though the years. About 15 years ago we bought a washing facility and started to wash and pack potatoes for the major supermarkets in Australia but found that this created a by-product, for example potatoes which are bruised, but apart from this there is really nothing wrong with them. I started to research how we could utilize our 2nd grade potatoes instead of feeding them to our cows."  

In addition to our gourmet potato salad rage which has been on the market for a couple of years, we have put together a range of simple potato dishes which are ready in a few minutes. They can be microwaved or heated in the oven, turning potatoes into a convenience food." 

For the Dalys it is all about the taste, "We use natural flavourings and real butter, and we carefully select the variety of potato used for each dish. We have created a gourmet range of potato dishes with our in-house chef, Russell Crook and we use only real potato not reconstituted potatoes." 

The company has invested in a high care facility where the potato salads and the ready to eat potato dishes are made, this facility is still being expanded and fitted with state of the art equipment. They also have a distillery where they make potato vodka and gin, further using the potato by-products, this part of the business is managed by Susie's daughter Ruby.

The Hell Fire potato vodka and gin are proving very popular, Susie's daughter Ruby runs this side of the business and attended a trade fair in Hong Kong last year, where she was surprised by the amount of interest in her product, her biggest problem supplying these markets would be in producing enough to fill the orders. At the moment Hell Fire products are sold on the Australian markets and are proving very popular.

We have always lived in this area and are glad that we can give employment to the local people. This means a lot to us, especially after the major bush fire 5 years ago where many people lost their houses and their jobs, everything in some cases." 

Daly Potatoes employs 25 people at the farm, 3 in the distillery, 2 at the market and up to 12 at the processing site. All employees are local and are really committed, they are keen to work according to Susie. 

Until now Daly Potatoes have only had the potato salad range on the market but this is very summer orientated and they wanted to do something for the winter months both to safeguard the staff's jobs and fully utilize the facilities.  "We are just a mum and dad business, so it has been a huge Endeavour for us and I must admit at times I have wished we hadn't taken on so much, but it has been great, it keeps you alive and fighting," laughs Susie. "We want to grow our business by entering different markets, we are on a journey. Our new ready to eat potato range is really adding value to our potatoes, we are now taking them from paddock to plate. All of our potatoes are grown locally by ourselves."

The company has come a long way in a relatively short space of time. At the start they were filling the potato salads containers by hand but the process has now evolved to machine filled containers, which is both more hygienic and cost effective. Labels were also all hand applied, but are now printed directly on the container. 
  
All potential products undergo strict taste tests as well as shelf-life tests to see how the taste and appearance last the distance. Daly is audited twice a year in order to supply retailers
"We want to use the Tasmania brand to help promote our product as it is widely recognized and known for good clean healthy food. We are also looking for export markets for the salads and ready to eat potato dishes. The potato products have just been accepted by a major retailer and will be on the shelves very soon. We think our products will appeal to the rising middle class in the Asian markets where consumers don't necessarily trust their home grown food." 

Chander Mohan

Krishi Jagran



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