After the potatoes arrive at our processing facilities, the first step is to sort them. Since they're a natural product, not every potato is of the same size. The potatoes are then stored according to size in 'storage bunkers'.
We assume that our growers provide us with perfect potatoes. All the same, we take no risks and inspect every single potato received, all day long. In other words, old-fashioned quality control. If you'd like to learn more, you can also read the blog How are frozen fries being tested. It's now time to peel the potatoes. A team of 250 men and women work on the conveyor belts daily, peeling hundreds of thousands... No, that's not how it works. Everything's fully automated these days. Steam and high pressure are used to peel the potatoes extremely quickly. They then get to enjoy a bath and be lovingly brushed.
To make it easier to cut the potatoes into fries, they are first heated in hot water. This softens them up. A new development is to give the potatoes an electric shock. The effect is the same, but lasts a little longer. This technique has been introduced at several Lamb Weston locations.
The potatoes are then transported to the blades via a funnel using water pressure. The funnel shape ensures that the potatoes are always cut lengthwise, resulting in nice long fries. Lamb Weston has even patented this cutting process! By having the blades rotate, you can also cut other styles of fries, such as Twisters.
On occasion, there may be fries with spots or damage. Obviously, these have to be removed. Not to worry! All fries pass through a scanner at high speed. If there are any irregularities, the optical scanner detects them and the culprit is simply blown away. Off you go!
Either way, we do our best to make life easier for you. So, we not only cut everything into the perfect shape, but also precook the fries for you. All fries are cooked at 180 degrees Celsius for around one minute. Afterwards, they're transported at express speed to the freezing tunnel and packaging unit. They're put into a bag, which is then placed in a box, which goes onto a pallet and, finally, transported into the cold storage warehouse, ready for dispatch.
No rest for the wicked
The entire process continues at full speed for two weeks. We then halt all production for two days. To take a break? Not really. To clean everything from the inside out. And we mean everything in the entire factory. That's because we feel very strongly about hygiene. After all, that, too, contributes to the perfect fry.
May we impress you with a few figures? Good. At Lamb Weston in Europe, 3.6 million kilos of potatoes arrive every day. That's 121 lorries full! In the EU and Middle East, 12 million servings of our fries are consumed daily. And in our European processing facilities, our annual consumption rates are:
- 40 million m2 (partly recycled) of cardboard packaging
- 4.2 tonnes of plastic foil for packaging the fries
- 43 million litres of oil for precooking
It may sound complicated, but the ultimate goal is to deliver a quality product to you. Transport is also an important consideration. Our transport is as sustainable as possible. The freshly frozen fries are dispatched in containers from our cold storage facility in the Netherlands (Bergen op Zoom) to Rotterdam by barges. This reduces the number of lorries on the road by 120 to 160. Ninety-five percent of transport to the rest of Europe - to Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden - is done by train. Only express shipments are dispatched by lorry.