Central America and social media are two top trending topics in potato marketing programs this spring as smaller continues to get bigger in the category.
From a nationwide perspective at the U.S. Potato Board, Denver, to state organizations such as the Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission, everyone is pushing to expand their international footprints.
Sarah Reece, international marketing manager for the potato board, said sales increases from startup programs in Vietnam helped prove the organization could create new markets for potatoes from U.S. growers. After two years of networking and showcasing U.S. table-stock varieties, the potato board is seeing its efforts create new sales.
“The first ever commercial shipments of U.S. table-stock potatoes began arriving in Vietnam this (past) fall,” Reece said. “U.S. potatoes can now be found in 97 retail outlets throughout Vietnam.”
Reece said exports of fresh potatoes from the U.S. to Vietnam increased 614% for the last six months of 2012 compared to the same time period in 2011. In 2011 the U.S. sent 347 tons of fresh potatoes to the country in Southeast Asia, compared to about 2,480 tons in 2012.
With that success on the books, the potato board is now going after the fresh potato markets in Central America. Consumer research in Guatemala and El Salvador showed the board that it needed to conduct consumer and retailer education programs, Reece said.
The board already conducted education programs with six retailers in the two Central American countries this year. Reece said the average sales increase during those promotions has been 241% compared to pre-promotion periods.
Petites, fingerlings big
On the domestic potato scene, increasing overall consumption remains the goal, with many companies turning to tiny potatoes to maximize profit.
For example, Wada Farms, Idaho Falls, Idaho, is making a big push through Easter and the rest of spring with its microwave-in-bag packs of bite-sized mini reds and golds, said Chris Wada, director of marketing. He said Wada also has good volumes of microwaveable, individually wrapped sweet potatoes this spring.
Across the country, at the headquarters of the Specialty Potato Alliance, Mountainside, N.J., small potatoes are also big news this spring.
Multi-colored fingerlings are the spotlight product for the alliance said Dale Firman, a founding member and head of the SPA West Coast operations.
He said the ability to pack as many as four varieties of fingerlings together has proven a strong selling point for the alliance.