Low Carb PotatoesNew Specialty Potatoes Offer Choice

    New Specialty Potatoes Offer Choice


    [deck]The outlook for Innate, Carisma, Rooster and other varieties in 2017.[/deck]

    It’s a great time to be a potato lover in Canada. Together, 2016 and 2017 mark banner years for new variety introductions. While it’s too early to fully report on Canadian consumer response for these groundbreaking spuds, we can give you preliminary news on the browning-resistant Innate, the low glycemic index Carisma, the flavourful Rooster (currently the most popular potato in the U.K.), as well as new coloured varieties released by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC). In addition to consumer response, let’s take a look at the outlook for each, in terms of sales, agronomic performance and acreage in various regions of Canada.


    First up is the Innate from U.S.-based J.R. Simplot Company. It’s a first-generation genetically modified (GM) variety that received Canadian regulatory approval in March 2016. While no production occurred in Canada last year, imports from the U.S. (White Russet) were sold across Canada and the U.S. Simplot already has a comprehensive consumer education campaign well underway, including a website that addresses concerns about the GM aspect of the potato. The campaign also includes a QR code and a toll-free phone number.

    Innate is less susceptible to black spot from bruising than other potatoes, up to 44 per cent, and won’t turn brown when peeled. This makes a pre-bagged, refrigerated fresh-cut product possible, with a shelf life of up to two weeks, and Simplot is already offering this on a limited basis. The Innate also has lower levels of asparagine and sugars, which means less acrylamide – linked in some studies to increased rates of certain cancers – when cooked. However, Simplot has already improved on the Innate with the Innate Gen 2, which has additional traits such as enhanced cold storage capacity and late blight resistance from common North American strains, which the company says should cut spraying by up to half. It has already received approvals from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, with Environmental Protection Agency approval expected in February 2017. Simplot expects complete approval in Canada by 2018, with test plots having already been planted in P.E.I.

    Doug Cole, Simplot Plant Sciences’ director of marketing and communication, says White Russet potatoes are sold in 35 U.S. States in 3,500 retail outlets, with about 6,000 acres harvested last year. “Sales of White Russet potatoes have been strong, and our marketing partners sold out in the fresh market for the second consecutive year,” he notes. “Consumer reaction has been strong. [And] there is strong interest among chippers in the U.S. and we are working with many of them already.”


    Originating in the Netherlands, the low-glycemic non-GM Carisma is being grown and marketed in Canada by Earth Fresh Foods of Burlington, Ont. Carisma does not cause a rapid blood sugar spike, which is a factor in diabetes and is also implicated in long-term weight gain, lower energy levels and lower ability to concentrate. Indeed, bags of Carisma sport the logo of the Canadian Diabetes Association, which estimates 11 million Canadians are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

    Lisa Kacue, Earth Fresh Foods marketing coordinator, says the firm sold about 20 acres of Carisma in 2016. “The response was overwhelming,” she says. “We had TV and radio stations calling us from across the province, we had consumers calling us looking for stores in their areas, and thousands of hits on our social media sites. Our overall reach was over 15 million impressions.”

    This year, due to a cross border seed issue, the crop will be grown in the U.S., with packaging and distribution for Canada in Calgary and Toronto. “We will be growing a total of 180 acres in Florida, Arizona, Texas, Minnesota and Washington,” says Kacur. “We will have the product available across the country, but it is too early to confirm the stores that will carry it.”

    Marketing in 2017 will echo the 2016 launch, with a media campaign, short educational video and more, but will be expanded more nationally, and will target health and nutrition audiences and foodservice channels as well the general public.

    The Carisma is average in yield and pack-out. Kacur says that it’s similar to most other European yellows, with lower fertility requirements. “It actually performed well in the drought last summer, which surprised us,” she notes. “There is nothing remarkable on resistances.”


    Ireland’s most popular potato was fittingly released to Canadian growers by W.P. Griffin of Elmsdale, P.E.I. on St. Patrick’s Day 2016. With a unique nutty taste and dry texture, the Rooster, developed by U.K. firm Albert Bartlett, makes up over half of all table potato sales in Ireland and is the number one seller in the entire United Kingdom, says W.P. Griffin president John Griffin. He notes that acreage has been expanding “very well” in the U.S., and that about 200 acres were grown in P.E.I. in 2016.

    According to Griffin, the popularity of the Rooster is all about taste. “Albert Bartlett regularly receives great feedback from consumers on the taste of the potato and it really is generating a following,” he notes. “Unlike many North American varieties, it can be eaten very simply with little or no toppings and still tastes great. It is very versatile and suitable for baking, frying, mashing or boiling.”

    This year the Rooster will be grown in Washington, Colorado, California, Idaho, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and P.E.I. – over 1,100 acres in total – with sales at many major retailers. In terms of agronomic characteristics, Griffin says it’s a long-season variety like Russet Burbank, requiring only two-thirds of the nitrogen. It also has a long dormancy in storage.

     2016 AAFC releases

    Last spring, AAFC released 16 new potatoes, including pink and purple varieties, with one that has similar traits to the current standard french fried potato, the Russet Burbank. They are all at the trial stage, with Canadian growers in many provinces having received “breeding level” seed, with no commercial cultivation at this point.

    The roster includes five french fry varieties, one chip, and 10 fresh market selections with two of those also being suitable for chips and one for french fries. AR2016-07 has dark red skin and red flesh with good boil scores and moderate resistance to scab. AR2016-09 has smooth red skin and white flesh, with good boil and fair bake scores and is resistant to scab. AR2016-10 has light yellow flesh inside a red skin, good boil and bake scores and is extremely resistant to potato virus X (PVX). AR2016-11 has purple skin and bi-colour flesh with good boil and moderate chip scores, and resistance to scab. AR2016-12 sports bright red skin and yellow flesh, with good boil, bake and french fry scores. AR2016-14 is a white-fleshed spud with red skin and a good boil score and waxy texture. AR2016-15 is quite similar but has resistance to scab.

    AAFC spokesperson James Watson says “using a combination of traditional crop breeding techniques, as well as new and emerging technologies, the department releases to the marketplace between 10 and 15 new potato selections annually. Much of the focus for the fresh market category has been on red-skinned potatoes which have improved performance and disease resistance, relative to pink and purple potatoes.”

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