Wada Farms Potatoes Inc. in Pingree, ID, whose potatoes are marketed by Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC in Idaho Falls, ID, has for several years been putting a lot of emphasis on developing innovative potato products, with regard both to potato varieties and value-added packaging. Among the value-added products are the “Easy-Baker” with individual potatoes sealed in a microwave-ready plastic wrap, and the “Microwave in Bag” line with russet, red or yellow potatoes in microwave-ready steam bags.
The company has also increased its focus on non-russet potato varietals, including reds, golds and various smaller round varieties.
This fall, Wada Farms is introducing two new product lines, according to Chris Wada, director of marketing at Wada Farms Marketing. One is called “Smalls,” and as the name suggests, it consists of small potatoes. There are currently two products in the line: “Smalls Artisan Mini-Red Potatoes” and “Smalls Artisan Mini-Gold Potatoes.”
The Smalls come in a 1.25-pound pillow pack “that is also a microwave steam bag,” said Wada.
The creamer-sized mini-potatoes in red or gold varieties, “can be cooked in the bag in five minutes and finished in the oven to crisp them up, or in a pan, and there are some quick instructions on the back of the package saying such,” he said. However, the Smalls are not being promoted mainly as a microwavable product but more as a specialty mini-potato product. The packaging simply provides consumers with the optional benefit of microwave steaming the potatoes in the bag if they choose to do so for convenience.
The 1.25-pound size is smaller than the 1.5-pound bag commonly used in the industry. “We have done a lot of research and fine-tuning” on determining “the right size and right price for both retailers and consumers” Wada said.
In bringing Smalls to market, “we are going to do some different marketing approaches,” Wada said. “We are going to focus more” on digital media with a campaign designed to appeal to young families and small households.
“We have some fun stuff we are working on in the digital front” which will be in place toward the end of September. Business-to-business marketing methods will be used to “get the conversation started,” followed up by business-to-consumer programs which Wada Farms will have “ready to implement, to support retail customers” as “kind of a phase two of the B2B approach” he said.
“We want to work with retailers and our customers collaboratively … to come up with good solutions and also limit costs on each side” and make marketing efforts “more effective,” he said.
Another new product from Wada Farms will be poly bags called “Tater Made” that are made partly from potatoes, Wada said. “We have been working the last four or five years helping a local company develop this for produce poly bags.” Potato starch is used as a replacement for about 25 percent of the oil-based resins normally used in poly bag manufacture, creating “an eco-friendly option” for retail packaging, he said.
“At Wada Farms, we view sustainability as not just farming practices. We are focused on being sustainable in as many ways as we can.” That includes “finding a solution on our own to offer retailers to not only help reduce our carbon footprint for the bags that we ship potatoes in” but also to help retailers “meet their corporate sustainability objectives,” Wada said.
Packing fresh potatoes in bags made partly from potatoes is “a nice story to tell,” he said.
The Tater Made bags are actually stronger than conventional poly bags, but the clarity is not as great, although it definitely has more clarity than the tinted poly bags that are popular with certain customers on the West Coast, Wada said.
Wada Farms is Idaho-based but has national distribution, Wada said. The company grows round red and gold potatoes and various types of mini potatoes along with the more traditional russet varieties.