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An Australian research and development company has been working on a potato-based food ingredient that can be used in lactose-free milk and cheese products.

PotatoMagic CEO and former chemical engineer Andrew Dyhin has spent four years researching ways to replicate the properties of aged potatoes through the development of a new potato process.

The product, called ‘Chato’, is a 100 per cent pure potato ingredient which serves as a water soluble thickener at room temperature, melts when heated, and can be used as a base for lactose-free dairy products from milk through to hard cheese.

It is also suitable for manufacturing baked snack foods that need to be salt-free and fat-free; can function as a dip base; or be used as cubes in salad.

“It’s an ideal time to launch Chato as China is moving away from grains and towards potatoes,” Dyhin told Food & Drink Business.

“The government is promoting potatoes due to their relatively low cost per yield.

“On top of that, lactose intolerance is a common issue in Asia, and this opens up a whole new market for products which cater to this group.”

Potato acting as cheese

Dyhin says the ingredient softened easily, and could be used in dishes such as pizza and gnocchi in the same way as cheese.

“Liquid or solid, sweet or savoury, it serves as a versatile base for many types of products,” he says.

“If you put three per cent of it in cold water it forms a milk alternative.

“It’s also suitable for thicker mixtures such as custards and dips,” he adds.

Chato is a shelf-stable product which can be kept in the cupboard for 12 months, and Dyhin says it could be used for disaster relief, and in aged care facilities as well as in foodservice.

Sustainable spuds

Chato is created through a series of processes which heat the potato within a specific, controlled temperature range, and then chills it.

“In other kinds of potato processing, around 25 per cent of the potato ends up in landfill because it’s perishable,” Dyhin said.

“However, we can take all of that and use it in liquid or hard products, turning it into something sustainable.

“Chato will make potato a tradeable commodity potentially.”

Dyhin says he is currently in discussions with potential suppliers, investors and joint venture partners and anticipates the product being on the market within the next 18 months.

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