Movement of organic potatoes and onions has been sluggish at times, but most organic growers say consumer demand generally remains strong as they continue to serve the market.
Mountain King Potato of Monte Vista, Colo., has a “conservative” number of acres of organic red, gold and russet potatoes because organics is such a small category, said Andreas Trettin, marketing director.
“It’s a slower-developing category than what we had originally planned,” he said.
The organic potato category is growing, but not at same rate as the fruit categories, he said.
“I think there’s a little bit of work to be done to communicate the differences and the benefits of organic potatoes versus conventional potatoes,” Trettin said.
Organic potatoes are one of the few items Potandon Produce, Idaho Falls, Idaho, markets under the Potandon brand, said Ralph Schwartz, vice president of sales.
The company has had “steady, incremental growth on organics for the last six consecutive years,” he said.
Russets, reds and golds packed in 3- or 5-pound bags are the company’s three top organic items.
Although Potandon has offered organic potatoes for at least 10 years, the company has not made it a focus like some suppliers have, Schwartz said.
Mack Farms, Lake Wales, Fla., distributes organic potatoes because of interest in the category shown by some of its retail customers, said Chandler Mack, vice president of operations.
“It’s definitely a growing category for us,” he said.
In fact, the firm’s organic volume is double what it was five years ago, he said.
Nonetheless, the company has not yet invested in its own organic deal.
“If we do it, we want to make sure it’s going to be profitable and not something we are going to lose money on,” he said.
Organic growers face nematode issues in their fields and must work with alternative fumigation protocols and implement other unconventional growing practices if they want to succeed, he said.
“Growing organically in Florida is a big challenge, that’s why you don’t see more organic products here,” Mack said.