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Stefanie de Kok on sweet potatoes and potato chip production:

"Desire for regionality and direct marketing is on the rise"

The cultivation of sweet potatoes is gaining momentum in Germany. Meerbusch Kartoffelhof is committed to this cultivation and the production of potato chips, says commercial manager Stefanie de Kok.

Stefanie de Kok

Rise and harvest of sweet potatoes
This year, the Meerbusch-based company included sweet potatoes in its range for the first time, using 10,000 sweet potato cuttings. "In cooperation with, we also use an autonomous sweet potato harvester called "Harvery" from Asa-Lift/Grimme, making our work a lot easier." The fact that this effort is worthwhile is also shown by the fact that the sweet potatoes can be used in many ways: "Sweet potatoes are also now being used heavily in children's and baby nutrition. Sweet potatoes are gaining ground. Both in food retailing and in the catering industry, we are finding many buyers."

Sweet potato cultivation at the Meerbusch potato farm.

Start of season for early potatoes and chips production
"We are starting the early potato season this week, which has been very delayed due to the heavy rain. In parallel with our potato cultivation, we are also dedicated to potato chips. At the end of June we started with them and they are really well received. The price of the product is already a bit higher, but there is the advantage that we can offer our chips also in the vegan version. In doing so, we use a vacuum fryer, using sunflower oil to process our potatoes."

But where did the decision to process the potatoes this way come from? "There was the question of what to do with the potatoes, which are of good quality but do not meet retail standards. Furthermore, since potato consumption is also declining, the decision to process the potatoes accordingly was obvious," says de Kok. In addition to all this, the potato farm uses a plastic-free bag that is compostable. The chips are produced in a nearby factory.

Chip varieties of the potato farm

Fluctuating demand during Corona
De Kok recognizes a clear difference from the first lockdown: "Self-sufficiency was even more necessary at the start of Corona. Volumes went up fourfold at the start of Corona. At times, we were working up to 22 hours at a stretch. Our trucks went back and forth between markets; instead of boxes we delivered whole pallets. But since the reopenings, we've seen sharp fluctuations in demand - especially now in the summer- every day."

Manpower and machinery
Although de Kok can rely on a permanent team, seasonal workers and absences due to illness pose familiar problems for the business. "We've actually been trying to find replacements for quite some time, but that's easier said than done. Packaging is already done by a machine; sorting we still have to do manually. Of course, we've already thought about an optical sorting system, but that's not yet financially feasible."

Regional recognition value
"Consumers are paying more attention to where the goods come from. The pictures of us on the chip bags should show them that this is a genuine regional product and can therefore also give them a sense of connection with us and the product. We've also noticed that direct marketing has become more popular."

For more information:
Meerbuscher Kartoffelhof UG 
Stefanie de Kok
40668 Meerbusch
Tel: +49 2150 - 70 76 370
Fax: +49 2150 - 70 76 370

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