Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A New Spin on Spuds; Latest Low-Carb Potato Variety Cropping Up in Hastings Has 25 Percent Fewer Calories and 30 Percent Fewer Carbohydrates

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A New Spin on Spuds; Latest Low-Carb Potato Variety Cropping Up in Hastings Has 25 Percent Fewer Calories and 30 Percent Fewer Carbohydrates

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTINA ABEL

After six years of testing and refining, SunFresh of Florida Marketing Cooperative Inc., plans to distribute its latest variety of lower-carbohydrate potatoes, grown by farmers in Hastings, in June.

Wayne Smith, president of the cooperative, said the new SunLite Gold potato -- wrapped in a bright gold and maroon label -- is similar to the original SunLite variety, which debuted on supermarket shelves in January. Despite the waning low-carb craze, Smith says orders for the new potatoes are growing and the cooperative expects to meet its goal of owning 5 percent of the market in the next three to five years.

Like the original SunLite potato, the gold has 25 percent fewer calories and 30 percent fewer carbs -- 13 grams per 3.5 ounce serving -- than the Russet potato, which has 19 grams of carbs. The gold potatoes weigh 6-to-10 ounces, have a yellowish inside and boast a slightly sweeter taste than the original SunLite.

Smith, who grows both varieties of potatoes, said the cooperative purchased the exclusive rights to grow them from HZPC Americas Corp., a Dutch seed company, after the University of Florida's Plant Science and Research and Education Unit in Hastings researched growing techniques for six years.

Unlike Russet potatoes, which are harvested about 120 to 130 days after planting and can be cold-stored for months before they are shipped out, SunLite potatoes are harvested more quickly, in 100 days, and distributed within days or weeks. "When we say 'always fresh, never stored,' that's exactly what we mean," said Bill Cotton, the general manager of SunFresh.

Because Florida farmers can harvest the potatoes in winter and spring, Chad Hutchinson, an associate professor of horticulture with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said that local farmers have a greater chance than growers in other parts of the country to capitalize on the potato industry, which nets about $60 million a year in Northeast Florida.

"We have a market niche here for Florida production," Hutchinson said. "The sole concept is to create a company that will supply this product year round. …

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