"A lot of work has been done to expand chefs’ thought patterns with varieties that are available today," said Mike Carter, chief executive officer of Bushmans’ Inc., Rosholt, Wis.
"Many of those varieties may not have been around 10 years ago."
As chefs have picked up on specialty potatoes, retailers have followed suit, Carter said.
"We expect that to continue," Carter said.
"I think it’s catching on, and the reason is consumers are exposed to more than just what chefs are doing in restaurants, but also the Food Channel and cooking shows, which have enlightened consumers."
The Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota is known for its red potatoes, but also produces a good supply of yellow potatoes for the marketplace.
Paul Dolan, general manager of Associated Potato Growers, Grand Forks, N.D., said red potatoes have become so mainstream he doesn’t necessarily consider them specialty anymore.
However, yellow potatoes are still treated as a specialty item.
Among the chefs the Washington State Potato Commission works with for its promotional materials, fingerlings and colored potatoes are growing in popularity, said Karen Bonaudi, director of marketing and industry for the Moses Lake-based Washington State Potato Commission.
"Yukon golds are always really popular because you get a unique flavor and texture," Bonaudi said.
Bonaudi said the state’s red potatoes sell out to the East Coast and California, where they are in especially high demand.
Mac Johnson, chief executive officer of Denver-based Category Partners, said consumers’ growing interest in smaller B- and C-size potatoes likely is due to shorter preparation times required for cooking with them.
Category Partners is owned by Monte Vista, Colo.-based Farm Fresh Direct and Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms, and is a retail marketing and category development firm.