Low demand, tough economy daunt potato industry - The Packer

Low demand, tough economy daunt potato industry

01/07/2010 03:02:22 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Discussing retailing produce in challenging economic times, Paul Kennedy, the recently retired group president for perishables for Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., said potatoes have seen a 27% deflation in their prices at retail along with 22.5% deflation for onions and 16.8% for broccoli.

“If you’re dealing with a lot of deflated categories, things don’t go so well at retail,” he said. “The issue isn’t just that produce is deflated, but all categories in the supermarket are deflated. Produce is having a hard time getting to the positive area.”

Bill Whitacre, president and chief executive officer of the potato processing giant J.R. Simplot Co., Boise, Idaho, said the potato industry needs to embrace technology to enhance the relevance of the potato in a technologically-driven world.

“Technology is moving quickly,” he said. “It’s about how you anticipate things. Our business has significantly become more complex than 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago. This is not your father’s or grandfathers’ potato industry any longer. It has changed. It has become global, and more volatile and more complex.”

About 1,200 participants attended the Jan. 4-6 expo, up from the 900 in 2009.

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