“I think there’s greater acceptance of the new varieties now among shoppers,” Worley said. “I think consumers are much more excited about the varieties, and they are higher in antioxidants.”
Specialty varieties are not new to the San Luis Valley, although finding regular customers can at times be a challenge, said Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Monte Vista.
“Niche markets can be difficult,” he said. “Getting retailers to commit is the challenge — not unlike the chicken and the egg.”
There is a trend to get away from russet dominance, however, Ehrlich said. To that end, researchers at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, are focusing on new variety development.
The committee also is using a specialty crop grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to focus on four varieties, each of which is unique, he said.
“One is a purple variety that is really high in antioxidants and could be a cancer fighter,” Ehrlich said.
Only a handful of grower-shippers in the valley focus on other than the fresh potato market.
“When our growers are growing a crop, they are pretty cognizant of the fact they want as much of the crop as possible to qualify for the fresh market,” Ehrlich said.