The Potato Quest

Mc FriesThe Perfect French Fry. Golden. Crisp. Just the right texture. And it just isn’t another chip of any other potato. On the contrary, it’s a very special potato that McCain nurtures carefully before it finally emerges as a golden beauty.

First, there had to be the perfect potato. One that was large and oblong shaped with high solids. Since there weren’t any processable quality potatoes, McCain had to first establish a sustainable potato supply chain in the country. A team of McCain researchers thus took up the task of developing the seed at Lahaul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh amongst other locations in North India. Today the seeds, planted in May and harvested in October, full of “northern vigour” are brought to Gujarat for sowing in November. Because of the high altitude production, the seeds are disease resistant.

After developing the seed program, we began working with potato farmers in India on an extensive agronomy programme to identify the area with best potential to grow French fry quality potatoes. Over the years, McCain’s agronomy team has been working with Gujarat farmers to upgrade the yield and quality of a number of varieties of potatoes for processing high quality French fries and other potato speciality products.

The second challenge for us was inadequate infrastructure for storage of raw material. Potato being an annual crop has to be stored in proper conditions so that the produce can be used for the whole year till we get the next crop. Moreover the tuber needs to be carefully handled and stored in temperature controlled rooms to prevent it from developing sugars and maintain it for processing. We had to thus work closely to modify existing cold stores to suit the stringent requirements. In the area of potato storage, McCain also pioneered the introduction of globally popular high-temperature storages in India, an absolute necessity for processing industry. Under the method, potatoes are stored at relatively higher temperatures (8-12 degree Celsius) as compared to the traditional method of cold storage (3-4 degree Celsius). This preserves potatoes longer, decreases the tendency of sugar development in stored potatoes, and in addition yields savings in energy from lower refrigeration loads.

In order to ensure the safety and integrity of its products, dedicated reefer trucks that are GPRS enabled deliver the products from McCain plant to the cold stores/warehouses and retailers at the required temperatures. The sophisticated inbuilt technology of the McCain’s reefer trucks maintain a temperature of minus 18 degree C that is ideal for the quality of its frozen products. At the same time, the GPRS technology helps to track the trucks on all roads across the country, thus ensuring on time delivery of the products in the right condition to the consumers. As a result, we are constantly monitoring our cold chain to ensure efficient and timely delivery of our products without compromising on the product quality.

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