In the early 1900s, Joseph Bushman would load a rail car with his potatoes, ride along with the spuds from Wisconsin to Chicago and sell his product until it was gone. Then he would turn around and hitchhike home.
“That story is legendary,” said Mike Carter, CEO of Bushmans’ Inc., Rosholt, Wis. “We thought it was a wonderful story that connects consumers with the farmer. We’ve gotten away from that.”
Not anymore. Bushmans’ plans to tell that tale on the back of its new bag, called Box Car Joe’s. Carter said the new bags will combine a heritage look with modern features, including a quick-response code and recipes.
Carter said the bags, which will be available when the new crop harvest begins in August, will come in 5- and 10-pound sizes and will contains russets, yellows or reds.
Carter said Bushmans’ is selling more and more 5-pound bags overall and even smaller pack sizes. The company also is introducing Spudalicious 3-pound bags for creamer-sized reds, yellows and fingerlings.
President and CEO Larry Alsum of Alsum Farms & Produce Inc., Friesland, Wis., said he also has seen a shift to smaller pack sizes.
“We are packing less 10-pound and larger bags and more bags under five pounds,” he said. “The 5-pound pack is still our largest volume pack.”
Of course, there also are options even smaller than 5- and 3-pound bags.
“Tray packs, individual wraps and other value-added offerings always do well,” said Dick Okray, president of Okray Family Farms Inc., Plover, Wis.
Although Bushmans’ is rolling out two new bags, Carter said many retailers continue to have their own branded labels. “And we anticipate that trend to continue,” he said.
Alsum said his company packs specialty products in its own brands, while many retailers prefer to have 3-, 5- and 10-pound bags in their own private labels.
Randy Shell, vice president of marketing and new business development for RPE Inc., Bancroft, Wis., also said his company is experiencing increasing demand for potatoes packed in store-branded bags.
“Although many consumers still look for brands they know and trust when shopping, most of the major retailers and foodservice operators have been leaning to their private brands over the past few years,” he said, “and millennials are also more likely to buy private-label products.”