Instant Mashed Potatoes
National Potato Day: Instant mashed potatoes are made possible thanks to this technology, developed in the 1950s.
Instant mashed potatoes are commonplace on grocery shelves and have found wide use institutionally and in domestic and international food aid programs. The most successful form of instant mashed potatoes resulted from the flake process developed in the 1950s and 1960s at the Eastern Regional Research Center, a United States Department of Agriculture facility outside of Philadelphia. The process for reconstituting instant mashed potatoes devised at this facility utilized dehydration technology. Subsequent research at the ERRC led to the introduction of other high-quality dehydrated vegetable products, many of these the result of research in explosion-puffing processes.
Instant potato flakes were introduced commercially in 1957 and became an “instant” success; by 1960 six processors turned more than four million bushels of potatoes into flakes. Production increased after that because producers learned how to use the trimmings from the initial peeling process and potatoes that could not be sold due to irregularities in size and shape. In the 1960s potato consumption had not only rebounded; consumption was now expanding due to the availability of new and high quality convenience foods. Instant mashed potatoes led the way, but potato flakes were soon being used industrially in coatings, ingredients, and fabricated foods.
The American Chemical Society designated the development of the dehydration technology that resulted in reconstituted instant mashed potatoes as a National Historic Chemical Landmark on April 18, 2007.
Visit National Historic Chemical Landmarks for more information on the chemistry of instant mashed potatoes.
Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program