Recent consumer trends for potatoes point toward the desire for convenience and variety.

“The current trends are microwaveable bags, specialty mini potatoes, and packaging refreshes,” said Ralph Schwartz, directory of category management for Potandon Produce LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Potandon has stepped up to offer products that fit these categories, including using microwave technology to offer consumers a way to bring baby potatoes to the table in just six minutes.

“With the trend in value-added potato products such as Klondike Express and our steamer potatoes in sauce, we have many options for customers to choose from,” marketing supervisor Barbara Keckler said in an e-mail.

“We continue to see these variety potatoes in high demand on the consumer level and strive to offer consumers recipes and preparation ideas to use these varieties,” Keckler said.

Speed of preparation seems to be a common factor among new product releases.

“We all know convenience is a critical component of consumer shopping behaviors,” said Seth Pemsler, vice president for retail and international for the Idaho Potato Commission, Idaho Falls.

Wilcox Fresh, Rexburg, Idaho, agrees that convenience is key, which is why it offers its C-size potatoes in a microwavable tray.

The company relaunched its Potato Jazz product line, switching from a B-size to a C-size potato and increasing the flavor profile options to four.

“We stayed true to our goal to make it convenient. After you sprinkle on the spices, you can toss it with olive oil or butter, and it’s ready to be taken to the table to be served, right in the tray,” said Jim Richter, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Focus group research revealed that consumers are excited about the option of having this quick dish as a side, or even an after-school snack. Richter says that paired with a salad, it could even make a satisfying main dish for a meatless meal.

Bushmans’ Inc., Rosholt, Wis., the parent company of Market Fresh Produce LLC, Nixa, Mo., revealed a new line of specialty potato products at Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2012 in October.

The new line includes red and gold fingerlings and “B” and “C” sizes available in 24-ounce fresh poly mesh bags, according to a news release. However, the new line also includes a 12-ounce microwave plastic bag offering that will cook in only a few minutes.

“We rolled out the line at PMA and had a lot of really good feedback,” chief executive officer Mike Carter said.

The new line follows Carter’s opinion about one of the most challenging aspect of marketing potatoes.

“The challenge, I think, is educating the consumer so that they understand that potatoes really are convenient and really are very healthy,” he said.

The company plans to expand these value-added offerings.