Clever packaging helps give onion, potato retail sales a boost - The Packer

Clever packaging helps give onion, potato retail sales a boost

11/24/2013 01:26:00 PM
Cynthia David

Courtesy Wada FarmsWada Farms, Idaho Falls, Idaho, offers a sleeve pack of four jumbo onions that it began shipping last fall. The sleeve contains the loose onion skins, keeping store displays and home kitchen cleaner. Growers and shippers continue their quest to make potatoes and onions stand out in the supermarket.

Grand Forks, N.D.-based Black Gold Farms was nominated for a Produce Marketing Association Impact Award at PMA’s 2013 Fresh Summit in New Orleans.

Black Gold Farms’ grab-and-go clamshell container is filled with 24 ounces of fresh red potatoes and a seasoning packet from Sparks, Md.-based McCormick & Co.

And Monte Vista, Colo.-based MountainKing Potatoes is marketing its successful fingerling potatoes as Steakhouse Roasters for a second season.

John Pope, vice president of sales and marketing for MountainKing, said most Americans have never heard of or tried fingerlings. They find the name objectionable, and they have no clue what to do with them.

So Pope packed his in a 1.5-pound, high-graphic, poly mesh bag with a baking recipe, put them in display-ready modules that can be rolled right onto the sales floor, and priced them as low as $1.99.

Someday, he hopes, a retailer will place the bin at the entrance to the product department with a big sign that reads: “Steakhouse Roasters, the new french fry.”

“That would really bring awareness to a lot of folks,” he said. “It might encourage them to switch from unhealthy fries to a fresh, wholesome alternative.

Chris Wada, director of marketing and export for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC in Idaho Falls, Idaho, said he’s working on new value-added potato products.

“My new mantra is: Narrowness broadens the appeal,” Wada said.

Wada Farms’ current collection includes everything from individually wrapped microwave potatoes and foil-wrapped grillers to one-pound steamer bags of B-sized round red and gold varieties.

Wada said his Idahoan Fresh bag, new last year, is growing in popularity and reflects Wada’s Idaho roots.

As for onions, Wada said he’s received positive feedback on his nontraditional Medallions Sleeve Pack of four jumbo onions, which started shipping last fall.

The sleeves can be stacked into pyramids or cascade down an angled display.

“Retailers like it because it displays and merchandises more uniformly,” Wada said.

“Retailers and consumers like it because the tighter mesh holds the loose skins in,” he said. “Store displays stay cleaner, and it’s not as messy at home.”

While poly and poly-mesh bags continue to be popular, particularly in the 3-pound and 5-pound sizes, Peatland Reds Inc. of Trail, Minn., is bucking the trend by introducing 5- and 10-pound paper bags.

“Potatoes last longer in paper than poly,” said partner-manager Dennis Magnell, whose Family Farm Value and Diamond labels are a year old.

Magnell also has introduced his Peatland Reds brand in a black 50-pound carton.

“Red potatoes look beautiful in black,” he said.

Associated Potato Growers Inc., Grand Forks, N.D., is discovering that working with a big name doesn’t guarantee instant success.

In the spring, Associated signed a deal to to package Red River-grown potatoes nationally under the well-known Better Crocker name.

“It’s been fairly slow,” said general manager Paul Dolan, “but it is a new label in the potato section. It may take some time before it grows.”

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