January 2022
New wave of potato-based drinks hitting market By Melanie Epp, contributing writer

Three international drink makers have brought new potato-based drinks to market. New opportunities for potato growers — both in the U.S. and abroad — could arise, if the new products take off. Interest, particularly in the plant-based alternative, has been strong.

DUG Drinks

According to new figures released by global market research company Euromonitor International, the milk alternatives sector is the fastest growing category in the dairy products and alternatives industry, soy products not included. Currently, the industry is worth $10 billion globally and has seen an increase of 16% in 2020-21. It’s no wonder then that Swedish food innovators at Veg of Lund have spent so much of their focus on developing new plant-based options.

Photo: DUG Drinks

Led by professor Eva Tornberg at Lund University, Veg of Lund’s aim is to design no-compromise plant-based products that combine taste with environmental sustainability by minimizing its climate footprint through efficient land use, low water consumption and low carbon emissions.

Launched in 2021, DUG Drinks is a potato-powered, plant-based drink that combines flakes from a number of different potato varieties, rapeseed and water. It is fortified with folic acid, riboflavin, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D.

Why potatoes? Rachel Redman, Marketing Manager of Veg of Lund UK, said they’re twice as land efficient as oats and use 56 times less water than almonds. Furthermore, using potatoes means the end product is free from the top 14 most common allergens. DUG Drinks was recognized at the World Food Innovation Awards 2021 where it was awarded Best Allergy Friendly Product, and was highly commended in the Best Plant-Based Beverage category.

Redman says the patented process will be featured in future plant-based products.

“I can’t talk too much about them,” she said. “But there’ll be plenty of future developments in the plant-based food and drink world with this potato base as a base for the product.”

The company plans to expand to the U.S. and Canada, where it will rely on local growers for supply.

Establishment Brewing Company creates potato-based beer

A relatively new brewery in Calgary, Canada has developed a tongue-in-cheek potato-based beer called “This Spuds for You.” Head brewer Mike Foniok said they were excited to experiment with potatoes, but also created the beer for a bit of a laugh.

“The beer idea kind of stems from the name,” he said. “We just thought the name was hilarious.”

Larger, commercial breweries use adjuncts such as corn and rice as sources of sugar. But those adjuncts take away from the overall flavor of the beer, making them lighter and less “beery.” Instead, the brewers replaced 20% of malt barley and replaced it with potato. Foniok said they chose Russet Burbank potatoes because they are high in starch. The more starch, the more efficient the fermentation process. The potatoes were imported from the U.S.

The resulting beer had a hint of potato aroma, but reduced malt flavor, making it less popular with Establishment Brewing Company’s flavor-seeking market demographic.

Like most of Establishment Brewing Company’s beers, “This Spuds for You” is a one-off. And although Foniok said potatoes were challenging to work with during the mashing process, he would consider brewing with them again in the future.

Belgian distillery launches new potato vodka

Internationally, Belgium is known for its beers, potatoes and chocolate. It is not known for its vodka. That could soon change, though, as a Ghent-based distillery, Dada Chapel, recently launched the country’s first potato vodka.

Cedric Heymans of Dada Chapel.

Every spirit has a base, but vodka can be made from anything, explained head distiller Cédric Heymans. Potatoes were the most logical fit because of the distillery’s location, he said. Potatoes grow well in Belgium, and they are always available. And 2020 was a particularly difficult year for growers, as country-wide lockdowns forced the closure of restaurants, resulting in a surplus of potatoes.

The first batch of Dada Chapel vodka was really a test batch. Heymans had never worked with potatoes before. They ordered two tonnes of Mona Lisa, an organic variety, from a local farmer. The farmer delivered them directly, dumping the wet and muddy load right in the distillery’s historic courtyard. The 13th century building serves as the distillery’s home to local aristocrats and was even said to be visited by Napoleon himself.

Working with potatoes has its challenges, said Heymans. Because they contain methanol, the vodka needs to be very carefully refined, as methanol is toxic in large quantities. But potatoes offer added value, as well, he said. They lend a smoothness to the vodka that other materials don’t, and the resulting spirit has an attractive, earthy aroma, reminiscent of potato storage. Dada Chapel vodka works well in Bloody Mary’s and other savory cocktails.

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