Fresh/ Table, North America, Trade/Markets/Prices, Trends

Spuds are value buy, even when prices rise

Michael Hart, sales and marketing director with Green Thumb Farms, says successful potato marketing starts with the right mix of varieties that consumers want. ( Photo courtesy Green Thumb Farms )

Potato prices may be higher this year than last because of tighter supplies, but the product remains a good value, and its versatility certainly hasn’t changed, marketers say.

Big, colorful displays that offer plenty of usage information still are effective lures to consumers strolling through retail produce departments, said Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Monte Vista-based Colorado Potato Administrative Committee.

“These displays need to include information on how to use the different types and new recipe ideas,” he said. 

“Nearly everyone loves and eats potatoes because they are nutritious and a good value, but giving consumers meal ideas that are convenient is great strategy. Anything unique and convenient would draw attention and create an effective display.”

Success in marketing potatoes begins with the right variety that will “ensure a successful and repeatable performance in the kitchen,” so that consumers consistently have an enjoyable eating experience, said Michael Hart, sales and marketing director with Fryeburg, Maine-based grower-shipper Green Thumb Farms.

“You must also provide recipe ideas that can be communicated through a company’s website, social media, and in some cases, traditional media like newspapers, magazines, and TV shows,” Hart said.

Hart noted that Green Thumb Farms also has had success sharing recipes that match up well with specific varieties. 

Then, there’s the value proposition, Hart said.

“I don’t think we take enough credit for how affordable potatoes are,” he said, noting that 5-pound bags are commonly priced at $3.49, or 79 cents a pound.

“I challenge you to find anything in the store that nutritious, versatile, and reasonably priced,” Hart said.

Hart added that there also are ways to market potatoes, “not as a commodity, but as a desired product.”

“The farm-to-table has been a trend for a while now, and more and more consumers want to know (and buy) products with a local provenance,” he said.

“For example, last year, we introduced the Cold River Gold brand to home cooks, and one way we marketed it was to talk about where it was grown, even talking about the unique microclimate and soil at our farm,” Hart said. 

“I think that consumers enjoy hearing that story — and it’s worth saying that even these ‘boutique’ potatoes are cost effective for home cooks.”

Convenience also is an effective potato-marketing tool, said Christine Lindner, national sales and marketing manager with Friesland, Wis.-based Alsum Farms & Produce.

“Grower-packer-shippers are responding to the changing consumer taste and preferences by introducing value-added potato products to provide the consumer with ready-to-serve healthy potato offerings to meet the growing trends for fresh foods fast,” Lindner said.

The value-added category will continue to experience growth in the future, Lindner said.

“Consumers are looking for convenience and new ideas on how they can prepare potatoes and other produce items that they love,” she said. 

Marketing potatoes also can embrace a nutritional component, Lindner said.

“In addition, consumers are looking for ways to eat healthier and potatoes and other produce items fit this need,” she said. 

“By placing new, value-added items at the beginning of the potato display will encourage consumers to try new offerings while also strolling down to see old favorites, such as the 5-pound and 10-pound bag of russets.” 

Source: The Packer

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