Fries on the rise: Nearly half of potatoes now go into frozen products
The majority of potatoes in the United States are now sold in processed forms such as frozen, chipped, dehydrated, or canned. With the introduction of french fries as a key side dish in quick-service restaurants, the share of potatoes that go into frozen products has risen in each decade since 1979. As a result, almost half of all potatoes going into food in the United States are now used to create frozen products—most of which are french fries. Meanwhile, the share of potatoes used as fresh table potatoes has declined decade by decade. Even the favorable trend in french fries has seen some bumps along the way. After peaking in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the long-run upward trend in frozen potato availability slowed as many consumers embraced low-carb diets or sought alternative food choices and cuisines. However, by the mid-2010s, frozen potato availability once again turned upward, with per capita availability during the pandemic-influenced 2019–21 period up 8 percent from a decade earlier (2009–11). According to industry data and USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) research in the early 2000s, about 90 percent of frozen french fries move through various food service venues. Quick-service restaurants alone account for about two-thirds of french fry usage. This chart is drawn from the ERS data product Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook Tables.
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