As people’s habits and lifestyles have changed the demand for processed potatoes has grown. Idaho’s potato industry has recognized and met this demand.
The earliest form of potato processing was probably drying potatoes to preserve them for future use. In Idaho, the first processing activity was the extraction of starch from potatoes closely followed by the production of potato flour and potato meal.
The Rogers Brothers Seed Company claims the first dehydration of potatoes for food use in Idaho. They indicate that they were producing potato flour in 1926 and drying diced potatoes in 1940. Military needs during World War II forced the development of techniques that gave birth to the modern potato processing industry in the Gem State as well as the rest of the world.
In 1942 Simplot produced dehydrated potatoes, using the same process as drying onions. R.T. French began producing potato granules for instant mashed potatoes in 1952.
The potato processing industry has evolved over the years until it has become possible to buy potatoes as frozen French fries, potato rounds, stuffed baked potatoes, shredded potato patties, hash browns, curly fries, seasoned fries, or mashed. Dehydrated potatoes come as flakes or granules for instant mashed, hash browns, diced for soups and stews, or sliced for au gratin, etc.
There are processing plants for frozen products and those that are purely dehydration plants. Some operations have facilities for both types of processing.
One of the benefits of processing potatoes, aside from convenience to the consumer, is that it gives an opportunity to use the less than perfect potatoes, resulting in less waste.