AHDB Potatoes Next Generation group at McCain Foods Scarborough
The AHDB Potatoes ‘Next Generation’ tour kicked off in Yorkshire last month, visiting two progressive Yorkshire based potato businesses. The day focused on processing, a star performer of the £4.1bn GB potato industry.

The first session in Scarborough was hosted at the GB headquarters of McCain Foods. As the largest UK purchaser of potatoes, McCain utilizes 15% of the annual crop to supply its French fry and potato specialty production lines in the UK.

From 1974 to 2013, the volume consumption of processed potatoes grew 104% from 119g per person per week to 242g. The frozen potato market continues to grow and was one of the strongest performing frozen categories in 2014.

“The combination of convenience, value for money ( frozen products leading to less waste) and a strong product development programme has kept potatoes relevant and contemporary for consumers,” said Next Generation delegate and McCain fieldsperson, Matt Stubbings. “McCain continuously invests in product innovation, which in recent years has included our Ready Baked Jackets and the likes of Peri Peri fries.”

“Right from the very beginning, the McCain brothers who founded the company in 1957 believed that if you don’t get the agronomy right, you can’t produce the right product,” noted Matt. “In GB we work closely with over 300 potato growers and our highly-skilled agronomists and field team play a key role in ensuring the very best crop is harvested for our products.”

The second "Next Generation" visit was hosted by RS Cockerill, in Dunnington.

The second session was hosted by RS Cockerill, in Dunnington near York. This focused on the GB crisping market, worth £914 million in annual retail sales.

RS Cockerill has expanded rapidly and supplies around 100,000 tonnes of crisping potatoes to Walkers each year, representing one out of every six packs sold in the UK.

Martin Cockerill, its Managing Director explained how the business developed from growing and trading potatoes and carrots in the 1930’s.

When Martin joined the business the late 60’s he developed an aerial crop spraying service and a prepack business serving retail multiples and large wholesalers. The company started supplying potatoes on contract to Tudor Crisps, later becoming Smiths Crisps and then Walkers who are still a major customer.

A strong people focus and close relationships with suppliers and customers is part of RS Cockerill’s philosophy. Gary Collins, Pepsico’s UK Agriculture Technical Manager joined the session to describe how he is working closely with RS Cockerill and other suppliers to deliver a 50% reduction in carbon and water usage as part of Pepsico’s 50 in 5 programme.

Year round potato supply is a key area. “Achieving reliable and consistent raw material to our customers 365 days a year is vital, “ said RS Cockerill fieldsperson and Next Generation delegate, Victoria Oaks. “A tuber is living and respiring, it requires lots of attention field and store.”

The group were shown innovative solutions to box layout and air flow to achieve successful sprout suppression and energy efficiency in long term storage.

Later this week (July 8), the Next Generation group will focus on potato handling, engineering technology and long term investment into the sector, a day hosted by Tong Engineering and Grimme UK in Lincolnshire.