Explosion of fast-fixing, value-added potatoes adds excitement to this retail category

Serving fresh-cooked potatoes for dinner meant up to an hour’s prep time as little as a decade ago. No longer. Enter fast-fixing, value-added potatoes.

“Growers are doing a great job with this category, be it with the choice of potato, flavorings or packaging,” says Richard Stiles, recently retired director of produce and floral for Redner’s Markets, a Reading, PA-chain with 44 markets and 13 quick shoppes in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. “These convenience products have really taken off with consumers.”

Value-added potatoes, in its broadest definition, range from shelf-stable to refrigerated to frozen potatoes. Chips (+1 percent), refrigerated (+7 percent) and frozen (+3 percent) increased in dollar sales during the 52 weeks ending December 30, 2018, according to point-of-sale data from Chicago, IL-headquartered market research firm, IRI, as shared by potato grower/marketer RPE, Inc., in Bancroft, WI.

“While value-added potatoes will continue to be a growing segment in the category, most growth in the past year was in the fresh-bagged potato segment,” says Russell Wysocki, president of RPE, makers of Tasteful Selections brand of bite-sized potatoes, some with added flavorings and cook-in-bag packaging. “Our company’s value-added potato products are up 17 percent versus a year ago.”

Smaller potatoes have grown more than 30 percent, according to IRI,” says Michael Castagnetto, vice president of sourcing for Robinson Fresh, based in Eden Prairie, MN. “The two big reasons for this growth are better flavor and shorter cook time. Small potatoes are becoming the darling of the category because of the flavor.”

There are two major challenges for retailers in maximizing sales of fresh value-added potatoes: knowing what constitutes products in this category and finding ways to introduce these newer products to consumers. The opportunities are incremental sales on high-margin items that tick the boxes for today’s consumer’s biggest culinary demand trends.

This article was originally printed in the February 2019 issue of Produce Business. Read the full article online on its website