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Potandon sees strong growth in yellow and mini potatoes

Potandon Produce LLC in Idaho Falls, ID, one of the largest potato and onion shippers in the United States and the exclusive marketer of the Green Giant brand for fresh potatoes and onions, is seeing significant growth in yellow potatoes and mini-potatoes, according to Carter Bray, vice president/general manager, variety potato division.

Growth in the red potato category, whether it be red-reds (potatoes with red skins and white flesh) or red-yellows, “tends to be flat right now,” although those varieties are “holding their own,” Bray said. But “from an industry perspective and for Potandon,” yellow-yellows and the minis, both reds and yellows “continue to grow. It’s where consumers are, it’s what they’re eating, and we have quarter-on-quarter growth that looks really strong.”

Mini-potato market share has doubled over the last two and a half years or so, he said.

01-Potandon---Steve-ElferingSteve ElferingAs with most crops in the Northwest, the start of the 2019 varietal potato harvest will be delayed, “probably by a good 10 days,” due to weather challenges at planting time, he said. The outlook for the crop profile “depends on where you are” as “different parts of this valley got hit different” in terms of the severity and frequency of late spring frost.

Russet potatoes will also be late, said Steve Elfering, vice president of operations. “We are just finishing up old crop,” he told The Produce News July 17.

Potandon expects to start new crop russets out of Washington tentatively July 31. Even though planting was delayed by three to four weeks, “we are only starting about five to seven days late on harvest” because of ideal growing conditions, Elfering said. He expects good yields and very high quality.

The outlook for Idaho russets is similar, he said. “We had a slow start to the planting,” but “the potatoes are growing and catching up every day. The crop seems to be in really good condition.” He expects Potandon to begin shipping new crop Idaho russets around the 8th or 10th of August.

Industry-wide, acreage in Idaho “seems to be about the same as last year,” he said.

As Potandon has been shipping the last of the russets from the 2018 harvest during the months of May, June and July, “we have had probably the best quality … that we have had in many years” in that time frame. “It stored well, it has been taken care of well, and overall, we have had really good arrivals,” Elfering said.

Onions, like potatoes, will be late out of the Northwest, he said.

Currently, the company was in the midst of a summer onion deal out of Stockton, CA, that started in early July and will continue through early September. By about the third week of August, “we will be staring up” with onions out of the Treasure Valley of western Idaho and Eastern Oregon in partnership with Baker & Murakami Produce Co. “We finished up a good year last year” and are looking at having another successful year with Baker-Murakami in 2019, he said.

In the convenience category, Potandon launched a new value-added product in January called One Step … Done! It consists of mini-potatoes in a one-pound gusseted stand-up bag, along with a seasoning disk in a patented Flavor Release chamber. The initial launch was limited to a single retailer. That has since been expanded to around 25 retailers nationwide. “We’ve targeted retailers that fit a certain profile,” said Bray: retailers who “understand what real consumer marketing is, and consumer support,” and who do “the right kinds of trials and events at retail. We are happy with the launch so far, and continue to accelerate it.”