(May 21) BOISE, Idaho — Potato industry officials hope a new transfat-free french fry will help increase the demand for spuds in fresh and processed channels.

In mid-May, J.R. Simplot Co., the supplier of french fries to McDonald’s Corp., announced the launch of its Infinity french fry, which boasts no trans fats. The fries are made with nonhydrogenated vegetable oil. Hydrogenated oils are the source of transfats, according to a news release.

Nutrition information on the Simplot Web site indicates the fries also feature fewer calories than their traditional counterparts.

Three-ounce servings of the wedge-cut, thin-cut and shoestring versions have 130 to 170 calories. McDonald’s 2½-ounce small french fry has 220 calories, according to the McDonald’s Web site.

If the Infinity fry becomes popular among consumers, some in the potato industry said the product could be a boon for the fresh market.

“Anything that could help the entire potato image would certainly help,” said John Stanger, president of Idaho Falls-based ProFresh LLC, which markets potatoes under the Dole label.

In the past year, grower-shippers said fresh potato sales have been off by at least 5%. Many shippers attributed the sales drop to low-carbohydrate diet trends. However, ProFresh’s Stanger said a weak market, at least for Idaho potatoes, was mostly due to oversupply, inconsistent quality and smaller sizing.

Increased fry demand might lead to higher prices for the entire industry, said Linda McCashion, vice president of public relations at the U.S. Potato Board, Denver.

McCashion also said the Infinity product’s nutrition message could benefit the U.S. potato industry, which has been touting the potato as a healthful food.

Artery-clogging trans fats have been proven to increase LDL cholesterol levels, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An increase in this type of cholesterol raises the risk for coronary heart disease.

The FDA issued a requirement in July 2003 that nutrition facts panels include trans fat content by Jan. 1, 2006.

More healthful french fry could bolster spud price
The Infinity french fry, offered by McDonald's suppier by J.R. Simplot, has no transfats.