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Potandon is one-stop shop for foodservice potatoes and onions

Potandon Produce LLC, which is headquartered in Idaho Falls, ID, has “the largest dedicated supply base in the industry” for potatoes and onions, “with shipping locations in all key growing areas,” according to Dick Thomas, vice president of sales and marketing. “Therefore, we can provide all of our customers with a year-round one-stop shop for all major varieties of potatoes and onions,” he told The Produce News in a June 20 interview.

The company’s customer base includes retail, wholesale, and foodservice accounts, “and you need strength in all of those areas to move your crop and get the best return for your grower base,” said Stephanie Bench, director of foodservice.

Bench, who has been in the potato industry for 26 years and with Potandon for the last 15 years, was promoted last year from foodservice sales manager to her present position. Having focused mainly on the foodservice side of the business throughout most of her career, she told The Produce News that she feels she has gained “a little insight” into “what the foodservice side of the business needs to grow going forward,” and she feels “comfortable working with our long-term partners and customers.”

Stephanie-Bench-Stephanie BenchPotandon will be showcasing full product line at the PMA Foodservice expo in Monterey, CA, July 30, she said.

“What we like to stress when we are down at the foodservice PMA is that our customers and any new potential customers can come to Potandon as a one-stop shop,” Bench said. We have Idaho russets available” as well as non-Idaho russets. In addition, “we have reds, golds, our mini-potatoes that are all grown here in Idaho or transferred up here from other growing regions, and we also sell onions. So a foodservice produce buyer can call into our office and get any of that product available here in Idaho.”

The mini-potato line consists of red, gold, and purple varieties, available in 20-pound and 50-pound bags either as a single color or a three-color mix. The onion line includes yellow, white, and red varieties.

Although the company can load product for customers in all major growing areas, a lot of our buyers an get all of those products [loaded onto] one truck out of Idaho and shipped to them for convenience,” Bench said. With reds, golds, and mini-potatoes, for example, “if we don’t have them in Idaho” at certain times of the year, “we bring them out of Washington or Arizona or other states where we have those varieties.” That is “a convenience for the customer to be able to put it all on one truck.”

Potandon supplies its customers “52 weeks out of the year” with “availability mainly out of Idaho, so we can consolidate all of those items on a truck for you,” she added.

The company has a quality assurance team “that goes to all of our facilities” in all producing areas to make sure the quality measures ups to Potandon standards, she said. “We feel that our quality is number one” and work to assure that the product customers receive is “the best that we can give [them].”

While russets continue to be the most widely used potatoes in foodservice, with baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and fresh-cut fries still being the staples for many foodservice operators, “there are some restaurant and some chefs that are looking for something new to introduce” to their patrons, Bench said. “We re seeing more information requested by customers on new varieties” that can color to a plate, enhance presentation, or give chefs something different to offer the restaurant-goers.” At Potandon, “we just have such a wide variety of products that we offer.”

The company’s new product research “is focused on bringing convenient and great tasting products to market,” said Dick Thomas. That includes an ongoing quest for new and improved potato varieties. The company is “positioned for continued leadership which is supported in part by a variety development company, Sun Rain Seed Solutions, that is constantly developing new varieties of potatoes.”

Potandon sees the foodservice sector as “kind of the starting point for new varieties, because the higher-end chefs from white table cloth restaurants are always experimenting with new and unique recipes and varieties,” Thomas added. “If you can get it started there, then it tends to translate to retail as well. For all of our products, we like working with our foodservice customers to introduce a lot of these new items.”

The company has “an extensive in-market distribution network that allows for next-day replenishment” to meet operators’ “incremental volume needs,” Thomas said.

In addition, “our category management services provide the company’s customers with in-depth industry analysis and real-time recommendations,” he said. “We feel that we are more than just providing a high-quality product. We are also providing customer and industry insights.”