24.01.2023 - Bioeconomy, Innovation

Potatoes fuel this dairy-free dessert cake

Not all potato cakes are savoury. One company in Latvia has transformed the humble root vegetable into a key ingredient for rich and creamy dessert cakes, which are vegan and less calorific than their traditional, dairy-based counterparts.

Labs of Latvia caught up with Juris Goldmanis, board member of the company, Ineses tortes, and the man behind the idea of experimenting with potatoes in desserts. He believes that the reality of our times demands that we look at using different cultures in food – ones with a long shelf life and that are easy to process.

Ineses tortes started to produce its Vegantatoe brand cakes in 2022 after completing a two-year research project in partnership with the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies (LBTU), Institute of Agricultural Resources and Economics (AREI) and the Cīrulīši farm. 

“It doesn’t taste like potato,” Juris clarifies with a smile. “It was in our interests for another flavour to dominate. If it were just a potato cake, people might only buy it once out of curiosity, so the main idea was to create a product that would taste like something we are familiar with from the dessert world.” Currently, they produce a raspberry version and a chocolate-orange cake. According to Juris, raspberry is more understandable to local consumers but chocolate-orange is growing on people. The cakes are free from artificial flavour enhancers and contain only natural ingredients. “What I can say is that we use the entire potato. Both the base and the cream contain potato,” Juris reveals of the innovative recipe.

Having secured a spot on the shelves of the Rimi and Stockmann supermarkets in Latvia, the brand now has its eye on the Estonian and Scandinavian markets, because they recognise the potato and have wider selections of vegan produce. “Scandinavian consumers give more thought to what they eat, where it comes from and how it’s made. In Latvia, we’re starting to, and that’s a good thing. We have every opportunity to educate the Latvian public,” Juris explains.  

Partners with shared interest in properties and potential of potato

Before launching Vegantatoe, Ineses tortes already had almost 30 years of experience in the baking business. In 2019, Juris, who is the son of the company’s founder and chief pâttissier Inese Goldmane, started to note the rising costs of dairy products and began thinking about plant-based alternatives, which would combine well with other flavours. Once he had settled on the potato, he turned to the LBTU’s scientists to discuss researching potatoes as an ingredient in desserts. “They found the idea strange to start with,” he admits. However, they soon found that scientific literature was yet to touch on using potatoes as an ingredient in desserts. In recent years, one other “experimental” product that has gone to market is potato milk. 

The project involved two other partners – the AREI, which selected ten suitable potato varieties, and Cīrulīši farm, which grew each variety in three different soils, resulting in 30 types of potato to experiment with. The LBTU then tested the potatoes to establish their chemical properties and factors like how well they keep. Ineses tortes devised the recipes. All project partners benefitted from the experience. “What matters in any cooperation is the return. If people find it interesting, the partnership will work,” Juris speaks of the multidisciplinary team. “In the 21st century, collaboration is key. You don’t have to fear scientists. If everyone contributes their knowledge, you will get a result,” he urges. 

For Ineses tortes, this was the first such project experience, and Juris is honest: “In business everything seems frightening at first, but then you understand that the world keeps turning and you can’t make it on your own. You need partners, and partnerships need to work like a mechanism. It’s never just one project.” 

Recipes informed by genuine customer feedback

Along with connecting with the right partners, Juris mentions the importance of consulting the end consumer. Within the project, Ineses tortes took part at Riga Food and the agricultural trade show in Rāmava, offering tasters to approximately 1000 people and improving the recipe based on feedback. The company also approached Latvia’s vegan community, learning important findings, such as the fact that most shop-bought vegan cakes are dry and get sold by the slice. Vegantatoe offers whole cakes in a 400 gram size. 

Plans to expand vegan product line with focus on sustainability

Juris discloses that they plan to expand their product offering in this market segment. “Product development is very time consuming, especially if it involves innovation, so [European Union funding] projects are very helpful,” he mentions. On a final note, Juris speaks of the sustainability aspect: “In Latvia, we’re still in infancy in terms of sustainability but that’s the way we need to go.” 

The “Development and production of innovative ingredients for confectionery products (cakes) from potatoes” project took place within the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development Latvian Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

Author: Lelde Beņke (labsoflatvia.com). Photo: Ineses tortes

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