RPE sees success with little potatoes - The Packer

RPE sees success with little potatoes

12/10/2010 11:39:01 AM
Cynthia David

Wisconsin’s largest potato grower, shipper and packer is digging up big sales with tiny California potatoes.

Colorful poly bags of yellow, red, white and purple Tasteful Selections babies and fingerlings, which began appearing on retail shelves in July, are selling like hot potatoes, said Rachel Leach, category manager for Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE Inc.

“Among all potato categories, specialty potatoes have actually seen positive dollar and volume growth,” Leach said.

“People who buy them like them and want that new experience, and the incremental sales have been wonderful without cannibalizing anything retailers may already have.”

The thin-skinned potatoes, grown in Bakersfield, Calif., come in three sizes: one-bite (the size of a penny), two-bite and three-bite, Leach said, and they’re packed according to very tight specs.

Varieties include Honey Gold, a proprietary variety, Ruby Sensation, Purple Passion and Golden Temptation.

Though Tasteful Selections come in three sizes, from 24- to 40-ounce bags, Leach recommends a single $3.99 retail price, with a $2.99 promo price.

Not only is the sizing unique, she said, but the minis don’t need peeling, they cook quickly, maintaining their firm texture, and they can go in everything from salad to pizza.

“It’s also an interesting experience to eat a whole potato in one bite.”

With three to four harvests possible, the little potatoes are available 52 weeks a year, said Leach. They’re also offered to foodservice operators in 10-, 20-, 40- or 50-pound boxes.

To introduce the bags at retail, RPE created a kit for produce managers explaining the varieties and what they taste like, Leach said.

RPE is also using online ads and videos, and a dedicated website has seen “phenomenal traffic,” she said.

Plans include expanding the line’s retail presence in the Northeast, she said.



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