Potatoes may be as familiar as just about anything in produce, but retailers do well to notice how changes within the category are affecting demand in their area and store. “As 86 percent of households purchase potatoes annually — I think the largest in the produce category, tied with bananas, according to recent data — this is a critical category and shopper base, in which to respond with a targeted and diverse assortment to drive overall produce sales,” says Angie Hanson, director of category development at Category Partners, Aurora, CO.
Category Partners, owned by potato shippers Wada Farms and Farm Fresh Direct, offers detailed demographic analysis to retailers and shippers of many produce commodities. Although U.S. fresh potato consumption has declined from 47 pounds per capita to 33 pounds this century, those numbers hide the emergence of important popular new varieties.
“The category is evolving,” says Kevin Stanger, president of Wada Farms Marketing Group, Idaho Falls, ID. “You’re seeing more and more colored or specialty potatoes. Ten years ago, if you walked into a supermarket you would see reds, yellows and Russets. Now, you also see mini potatoes, the specialty varieties, and value-added items.”