The price is right and supplies are ample for sales of Red River Valley red potatoes into foodservice, growers and shippers say.
“The red market has gotten much better for foodservice in general over the past five to 10 years,” said Ted Kreis, marketing director for the East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association.
Kreis said an increasing number of restaurants are putting red potatoes on their menus.
“I would guess as much as 30% of our potatoes go to foodservice, which is a pretty sizable portion of our business,” he said.
About 15% of the Red River Valley’s total potato production is fresh, and about 65% are russets for frozen processing, Kreis said.
About 10% of the total volume goes to seed and the other 10% to the chip market, he said.
B-size reds likely are the most-requested item for foodservice, said Paul Dolan, president of Grand Forks, N.D.-based Associated Potato Growers Inc.
“The premium size is going to be a tougher sell in foodservice,” he said.
If foodservice sales don’t grow, at least they will remain steady, said Steve Tweten, president and chief executive officer of Bruxton, N.D.-based NoKota Packers.
“Foodservice doesn’t change as much as retail. You need ‘X’ amount of potatoes no matter what,” he said.
Cory Seim, a salesman with Hoople, N.D.-based Northern Valley Growers, agreed with that assessment.
“It should be, the way things are, a fair demand in the foodservice market,” he said. “It’s pretty consistent, usually.”
That’s good, said Keith Groven, a salesman with Grand Forks-based Black Gold Farms.
“We’re maintaining the customers we have, and there has been slow growth there but not wild swings in demand,” he said.
Northern Valley’s largest customer base is wholesalers who deal directly with restaurants, Seim said.
A new red-skinned, red-flesh variety, still being developed at the North Dakota State University, might have a useful application to the foodservice business, if all goes as hoped, Dolan said.
“I can see it in salads and maybe foodservice. If it’s got the flavor, it would be something nice to add color to the plate,” he said.