Value-added, fresh-cut diversify potato and onion industry - The Packer

Value-added, fresh-cut diversify potato and onion industry

11/04/2011 10:40:00 AM
Ashley Bentley

Wrapped baker

Rosholt, Wis.-based Bushman’s Inc. offers a Speedy Spud, which is a triple-washed, shrink-wrapped baking potato. The company also tray packs baking potatoes, four to an overwrapped tray.

“Convenience is a priority for the customer, and we want to focus on that,” said Mike Carter, chief executive officer. “That’s the direction the category is heading.”

Potandon Produce also offers a line of Steamers with the Green Giant Fresh label.

“Several of our potato shippers and marketers, as well as other potato operations around the country, are introducing value-added products such as microwaveable potatoes

in smaller steamer bags,” said Tim Feit, director of promotion and consumer education for the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, Antigo.

“This allows more convenience for consumers and better margins for shippers and retailers.”

Alsum Farms and Produce Inc., Friesland, Wis., markets Fast & Fresh, a microwaveable line of potatoes meant to appeal to the convenience-driven consumer.

Organics

The organic industry continues to see steady growth for sweet onions, said Marty Kamer, vice president of Greencastle, Ga.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc.

Mountainside, N.J.-based Specialty Potato Alliance launched an organic line for retail this fall, which it premiered at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2011 on Oct. 14-17 in Atlanta. The line includes three bagged products, each 1.5 pounds: yellow fingerlings, red fingerlings and a mixed bag.

“Our customers have asked us to increase our organics,” said Richard Leibowitz, managing director.

The organic category continues to grow for Pro*Act, particularly in the university and school foodservice segments, Gorczyca said.

“As a category we’ve seen some huge growth in that area, but growth from zero to just a few cases is a pretty big increase,” Gorczyca said.

Still, overall in the potato industry, organics remain a small piece of the pie.

“It hasn’t taken off in a huge way,” Muir said. “It’s a consumer demand trend.”

Feit said less than 2% of the potatoes grown in the state are done so organically.

“I’ve heard that the slow economy has slowed the growth of the organic segment,” Feit said. “Given the higher price for organic produce, people have to make tough decisions in order to stretch their budgets.”

Gills Onions also offers an organic line of fresh-cut onions for foodservice and retail, but it is a very small portion of what the company does overall, Alamo said.


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