8 000 B.C - 1600sGetting to know the potato
- 8 000 B.C.
Today we know more than 2 000 different varieties of potatoes. Everyone can, with modern DNA techniques, be traced around 8000 years back in time to one individual plant in the Andes, in today’s Peru.
- 3 000 B.C.
The Egyptians mastered the technique to extract starch from wheat. The starch was used to coat papyrus to improve the quality of hieroglyphs and pictures.
- 400 A.D.
The Chinese used rice starch for coating of paper to improve the quality of the written text.
In Europe the Greeks and the Romans produced wheat starch for medical use.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, this knowledge was completely lost in Europe.
In what is today Iran and Iraq, Arabic physicians study ancient Roman texts and pick up knowledge of how to manufacture wheat starch.
Arabic physicians become medical authorities in Europe. This is how the knowledge of how to manufacture and use starch, was brought back to Europe.
When Spain meets the Incas, they come in contact with a beautiful plant with magnificent flowers and edible tubers.
When this extraordinary plant was brought over to Europe, the sailors soon discovered that eating the potatoes had lifesaving benefits as those who ate potatoes during trips escaped to suffer from scurvy.
Despite this positive experience of eating potatoes, for a long time the potato plant was only interesting among the European botanists and royalties for it’s beautiful flowers.
It would take a long time until the greater value as cheap and nourishing food, would become known and accepted.
During the Thirty-years war in Europe, awareness of the potato and its great potential as a nutritious food, slowly spread.
Scientists throughout Europe started to experiment with potatoes. In Sweden Olof Rudbeck – Professor of Medicine – was cultivating and investigating the opportunities of the potato in the botanical garden in Uppsala.
Starch of various kinds are now starting to appear in catalogues at European pharmacies.
1700sFood, grain and starch
Much grain was used during the 1700s for the production of alcohol and starch. The starch was used for the high fashion of this time; powdered wigs and starched clothes. At the same time, the grain was needed to feed the poor and starving population of Europe.
The scientists’ searched for new raw materials as alternative or complement to grain. Botanists around Europe had knowledge of the opportunities of the potato andthrerfore continued to examine the potato plant.
In Sweden, Jonas Alströmer – one of the most prominent leaders of the industrial revolution in Sweden – experimented with the cultivation and breeding of potatoes at his farm in Alingsås.
Gradually, the European leaders realized – with great help of the botanists – that the potato could be the alternative crop they were searching for.
The introduction of the new crop was slow, however. The peasants were suspicious and hard to persuade to put the potato tuber on their fields. The potatoe was blamed for all kinds of problems. In Scotland, for example, farmers refuse to grow potatoes because potatoes are not mentioned in the Bible …
Elsewhere potatoes were accused for being the cause of all sorts of diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis and rickets …
Eat potatoes …? No, at most, it can be used as pig feed … Potatoes were regarded even as something sinful because it was considered to stimulate the ”passion”.
1800sPotato feeds the hungry populations in Europe
The suspicion of potatoes decreases slowly and in parallel, the cultivation accelerates. Potatoes become a crop that saturates a large proportion of Europe’s hungry population. Thanks to this, mortality is reduced and the population is increasing rapidly.
Now the farmers also start producing potato starch on a craft scale.
Even more spirits
Interest in making spirits of potatoes also rises sharply in Sweden. In 1852, there were about 43 000 ”alcohol producers” in the country, including the homes. This results in widespread social and economic negative consequences for society. In order to overcome the problems, a total ban on all types of alcohol production at home is introduced in 1860.
1800sSmall, industrial scale starch production
Potato production increases steadily. The cultivated area expands and more and more potatoes are harvested.
Following the ban on production of alcohol at home, a large number of cooperative units were formed by the small farmers who cultivated potatoes.
In order to increase the potential for disposing of their crop, they also aimed at the production of potato starch.
The technology is now being developed from pure craft manufacturing at the farms, to small but more industrial operations.
Mrs. Ömke in Gothenburg, in 1845 retains the privilege of making and selling starch made from potatoes. She points out that potato starch is ”not only far-reaching than that made of wheat, but also useful for cooking, and thus useful to the public in many ways.”
One of the first real potato starch factories in Sweden is started in 1878 in Hemmingsmåla in the South eastern part of Sweden. The year after, a larger starch plant starts up in Gåragöl not far from there.
1900-1919Many small factories and though times
In the early 1900s, the cultivation of potatoes and the production of starch is concentrated to the southeastern parts of Sweden. Of the country’s approximately 100 starch factories, around 90 are located in the Blekinge County and the northeastern parts of Kristianstad County.
Around 1912, a group of merchants from Gothenburg decide to start their own starch plant. The choice of location falls on the closed brewery’s old premises in the small town Lyckeby in eastern Blekinge. The starch production starts in 1913. The business is not a success due to high raw material and production costs and the plant is closed. The following year, they start a new company – Lyckeby Glucose – for the production of glucose from potato.
As a consequence of the First World War, regulation of agricultural products was introduced. All potatoes grown was now needed for food.
In the years following the end of the war, in 1918, the restrictions were released, allowing the cultivation of potatoes, as well as the use of potatoes as raw material for production of spirits and starch.
The Lyckeby glucose factory.
1920sSSF is born
During the early 1920s, the numerous starch plants tries to find models of cooperation to achieve a stable market position.
Many, long and intricate discussions are being held between the starch unions. The discussions lead to several attempts to cooperate but the attempts lead nowhere.
Finally in 2027 a majority of the many small starch cooperatives agree to join together in a common sales organisation. The name is Sveriges Stärkelseproducenter (Swedish Starch Producers Association). This long name was in in everyday speech shortened SSF.
The first head office was located in Karlshamn.
in 1929 SSF, acquires the closed Lyckeby Glucose unit. It is now the name and brand of Lyckeby emerges in the SSF cooperative.
1930sFrom depression to a belief in the future
The severe economic depression following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 is plaguing the world.
Industries go bankrupt followed by mass unemployment, reduced purchasing power, falling demand and falling prices.
This hits hard even towards the agricultural companies that can not sell their products.
Stability and confidence
In Sweden, a deal was made between the government and one of the leading parties.
Through this agreement a tough stand was taken against unemployment. It introduced price regulations on agriculture products, financial support from the state, import tariffs and more stable prices for agricultural products.
For SSF and the potato growers this gave confidence and stability through fixed production quotas and safe sales to fixed and higher prices.
The industry responded to this by investing in the future and, among other things developed quality measures for potatoes and effective methods for control of potato late blight.
The 1940sWar, peace and optimism
The interwar period was characterized by a strong need for rationalization and the starch industry was no exception. An investigation advocated, for example, that all the starch factories in Sweden should be replaced by one single giant factory.
This scenario was never realized.
World War II intervened with rations and regulation. The potatoes grown was once again needed for food.
When peace finally came in 1945 and the economy began to recover, the rationalization of the industries again started and the pace of closure of the smallest starch factories increased even more.
By now, the cultivation of potatoes is concentrated in southeastern parts of Sweden.
At the starch factory, measuring the starch concentration in the potato.
1950sFocus on environment and rationalization
During the 1950s, it begins to be clear that industrial emissions generally have a negative impact on the environment.
Authorities begin to set limits and require industries to take responsibility and to reduce emissions.
For the SSF, it is primarily emissions of nourishing process water, that is the problem. At this time it is released untreated into lakes, rivers and seas, which do great harm to the ecosystems.
SSF now develops and streamlines a new manufacturing technology which almost cuts the need for water by 50 percent, from 5-6 cubic meters/per tonne of processed potatoes to 3-4 cubic meters/tonne.
In doing so, it becomes possible to utilize the process water as fertilizer and to start useing it on the pastures near the factories.
The structural rationalization and environmental requirements continue to drive the closure of the small outdated starch factories. When the new Mörrum starch factory was completed in 1958 it replaced seven plants.
Work at the Jämshög Starch factory – one of the old unrational starch units that were closed during the 1950s.
The 1960sConfidence in the future
The industrial rationalization that took off after World War II continues with increased intensity.
The requirements to reduce the environmental environmental impacts from production becomes stricter and tighter.
During the years 1960-1964 almost all the remaining starch factories are closed down.
They are replaced by four large newly built factories: Kristianstad Nöbbelöv, Villands, Lister and Östra.
The new production sites are effective. Their production capacity is just over 100 tons of starch/day compared to 2-3 tonnes/day for the factories that were closed down.
Also the cultivation efficiency increased to the benefit of both growers and SSF. An extensive operation started with agricultural advisory services, trials, plant breeding, introduction of new potato varieties, disease control, balanced fertilization etc.
New potato varieties are tested in experimental fields.
The effects of increased advice and knowledge among the growers leads to increased yields of potatoes (tonnes of potatoes/hectare) anda higher starch content (percent starch) of the potatoes. In parallel, the acreage used for growing potato diminishes.
1970 - 2000Competition, expansion and new products
Increased competition from international starch producers puts pressure on the SSF development department to evolve and adapt the product portfolio to an increasingly demanding market.
The first generation of functional starch products for food and technical industries are presented to the markets.
Environmental requirements are continually being tightened and again, SSF accepts a new water-saving challenge for the starch extraction. Through this new innovative process technology, the need for process water is dramatically decreased from 3-4 cubic meters/ton processed potatoes to about 0.7 cubic meters/ton.
The spin-off result is ”Fruktsaft” (potato fruit juice), a concentrated ”waste product” so rich in nutrients that it makes it is profitable for potato growers to collect and spread it as fertilizer.
The remaining four starch entties finally merge to form one single business unit.
In the 1980s, in order to compete and succeed on the international market, a joint-venture with the US company National Starch is initiated. The collaboration was ongoing for 10 years and provided many new skills and valuable international contacts to SSF and Lyckeby.
The spice company Culinar was acquired.
Lyckeby Aloja Latvia became SSF’s first venture abroad, followed by Lyckeby Amylex in the Czech Republic.
Sweden enter to the EU in 1995. This offers economic advantages for starch potato growers. Higher prices for starch allows the cultivation and starch production to increase with about 20 percent.
Sales of starch is intensified partly via Culinar in Sweden and the newly established companies in Poland and Russia. Agreements are signed with distributors in many countries.
A starch industry is acquired in Inner Mongolia, China. After ten years the company was taken over by a Chinese partner. The time in China provided many valuable experiences and inputs, which led to the the establishment of a sales company in Shanghai.
2000 - 2017Globalization and speed
The meaning of the word globalization becomes clear during the first decade of the new millenium. Technical progress delivers Internet and speed in communication. SSF reorganizes often to keep up with the changes.
The Group is reorganized into two business areas: Lyckeby Culinar for Food products and Lyckeby Industrial for technical products.
Establishment in China.
Lyckeby Culinar acquires the Swedish spice brand ”Kockens”.
Investment in a new starch derivatives plant in Nöbbelöv, Sweden.
Investment in a plant for extraction of potato protein in Nöbbelöv, Sweden.
2010-2013 – another period of rapid reorganizing of the SSF group to put focus on the core businesses starch and taste.
Solam was formed; a technical starch development and sales company, jointly owned by the Emsland, Germany.
Last starch campaign with subsidies from the EU.
New environmental standards imposed from 2016 are forcing innovation further. A decision is made to build a separate plant for evaporation of potato fruit juice at Nöbbelöv, Sweden.
The effect is both cleaner water, and a new highly concentrated organic fertilizer – Lyckeby Organic – launched with great success to the farmers.
Decision to invest in modern packaging equipment at the spice company Culinar, Sweden.
Decisions on major investments in a new blending facility at Culinar, Sweden.
Decisions on expansion of the native potato starch capacity in Nöbbelöv, Sweden.
All operations for production, marketing and sales of starch are concentrated to Lyckeby Starch and the operations for blending and taste are concentrated to Lyckeby Culinar.
Decisions on investments in the Lister Factory: a new potato protein factory and plant for concentrating of potato juice.
The food industries request E-number-free, Clean Label, food ingredients. As a response, a new E-number-free starch product range – Lyckeby Careful Clean Lable Starch – is launched and well received in the market.
Strategic plan for 2021, providing a comprehensive picture of the coming years’ and the need to invest in technology, organization and marketing.
Swedish University of Agriculture SLU, in cooperation with Lyckeby present a new variety of potato starch which consists entirely of natural storage stable amylopectin.
The new potato will be the first developed with the help of CRISPR-Cas9 technology.
Decision to invest in a new production facility for liquid flavour products at Culinar, Sweden. Liquid flavor products is a growing and profitable segment with great potential.
Planning for investment in expanded capacity for food in Lyckeby.