With Wada, buyers can meet their full organic and conventional potato and onion needs in one stop
Until Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, a major year-round shipper of potatoes and onions based in Idaho Falls, ID, “decided to get into the organic game” about five years ago, there was really nowhere in the industry that buyers could get everything they were looking for in the potato and onion categories in one place, said Eric Beck, Wada’s director of marketing.
“That was kind of a pain point for a lot of customers,” he said. “They were having to buy organics from different spots around the country, and there was really no consolidation where they could get everything from one grower-shipper location.”
Wada Farms was already a one-stop shop for conventional potatoes and onions, offering a broad assortment of products and varieties in those categories, so the company was well-positioned to address the needs of buyers who wanted to avoid sending trucks chasing around the country after LTL loads of organic products.
“The advantage for us was we had the growing facilities, we had the shipping facilities, and we had the consolidation capacity to really promote that one-stop shop for our customers,” Beck said. “It made it more convenient, because at the end of the day it provided more efficiency on the logistics side,” and it helped them bring costs down.
Initially, “we had just a small window” for organic offerings, he said. But the program has grown every year, and the seasonal availability has extended to where it is now nearly year-round.
In russet and varietal potatoes, Wada Farms has organic product available from late July through the middle of April or early May, and the company continues working to shorten the gap.
In onions, Wada currently has organic available from September until about April.
Wada also offers sweet potatoes in both organic and conventional options. The conventional product is year-round and the organic nearly so, running from October to late August or early September “depending on how well they hold” in any given season, Beck said.
Wada added watermelons to its mix a few years ago and is aggressively expanding that program. They are also diversifying into new product lines such as squash and asparagus. While there are “no firm plans” for adding an organic program in those items in the immediate future, “we’ll look at doing it down the road, I think. Organic is definitely an offering that people are looking for.” Beck said.
Most of Wada’s retail customers carry a mix of both conventional and organic produce in their stores. “With the way the trucking industry is right now,” with tight availability of trucks, a shortage of drivers, and the cost of supply chain logistics on the rise, “there are a lot of logistic problems that one encounters when buying two or three pallets of product here and there,” he said. But “if you can buy all your conventional, all your organic, and get all your potatoes and onions on one truck, it helps eliminate some of those headaches.”
For those customers who have not yet incorporated an organic section into their produce departments, Beck encourages them to consider doing so. “If they don’t have one, it would be good to look into it and see what kind of category management Wada can help them with” so that they can “capitalize on those extra dollars they could be capturing.”