Russet potatoes account for nearly half of the retail dollars spent in the potato category, but reds are slowly gaining ground.
“There is increased demand for reds, which we love because reds are king here,” said Steve Tweeten, president and chief executive officer of NoKota Packers, Buxton, N.D.
Red potatoes account for 98% of the fresh potatoes grown in the Red River Valley, said Ted Kreis, marketing director for the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, N.D. Kreis said reds have increased their nationwide market share 2 percent in the potato category compared to last year.
“Consumers are becoming more educated,” Kreis said. “They perceive red potatoes to be a healthy choice, and cable cooking shows have inspired people to try new things.”
Kreis said the versatility of reds — which lend themselves to salads, soups and more — also have benefitted from recipe promotions by the U.S. Potato Board.
For its part, the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association is urging retailers to promote red potatoes more often, said Kreis, who added that the association is targeting retail buyers through trade publications and shows.
For the 52-week period ending Aug. 31, red potato volume increased 4.1% in U.S. retail stores, according to the Nielsen Perishables Group.
Reds accounted for 19% of dollars spent in the category, more than double that of yellows and three times more than whites.
“This is the one category in retail that is doing better than the other varieties,” said Paul Dolan, president of Associated Potato Growers Inc., Grand Forks, N.D.
“One thing that has hurt the red potato movement is the high prices and short supply that the retailers experienced this past summer. The prices were too high to promote, and people found alternatives. The market prices we are at now should be very good for promotions and demand, as long as retail brings their prices in line with what they are currently paying.”
Fifty-pound cartons of size A round red U.S. No. 1 potatoes from the Red River Valley were pricing mostly $9.50-10, while size B were selling at $20-21.50, according to an Oct. 22 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fifty-pound sacks of the size A round red U.S. No. 1 were pricing mostly $8-8.50; size B, $18.50-20.
Growing demand isn’t limited to retail. Dolan said demand also is increasing in foodservice as more chefs incorporate reds into their menus.
Dave Moquist, president of O.C. Schultz & Sons Inc., Crystal, N.D., said skin-on mashed potatoes is one particular dish that has helped reds gain ground.
“Restaurants are looking for something different than French fries or a baked russet,” he said. “Skin-on mashed potatoes are popular. People are trying it, liking it and ordering it again.”
The texture and taste of reds make them the preferred choice for many recipes, said Keith Groven, salesman for Black Gold Farms, Grand Forks.
“Foodservice is a major part of our growth,” he said. “We’ve been pretty aggressive there. There are good opportunities to work with foodservice operators and their customers.”