While traditional potato types, such as whites and russets, struggle to maintain consumer sales, specialty potatoes continue to enjoy double-digit growth at retail.
Tasteful Selections LLC is one grower-shipper capitalizing on those changing consumer tastes. Part of Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE, it grows exclusively baby and specialty potatoes in Kern County, said Randy Shell, vice president of marketing and new business
This season, the Kern County production mix will be similar to last year — Honey Gold, Ruby Sensation, Purple Passion and White Delight baby potatoes as well as fingerlings, he said.
Acreage, however, continues to grow to meet increased retail and consumer demand, Shell said.
Although its growers have not yet been affected by the drought, he said water supplies continue to be a focus and the dry spell’s long-term effects are concerning.
The grower-shipper offers most of its specialty potatoes in three tuber sizes and three package sizes — 24 ounces, 28 ounces and 40 ounces.
“Consumers are focused on convenience and flavor, and small package sizes are leading the way,” Shell said.
“Russet potatoes continue to be king in terms of volume, but we’re seeing a long-term shift toward specialty, red and yellow potatoes.”
The grower-shipper also has begun marketing Ruby Sensation and Honey Gold in 16-ounce microwaveable steamer bags.
Although still a small part of its overall business, Shell said the sector continues to grow as consumers seek easy-to-prepare options.