Wada Farms focuses on supply chain execution
As another Idaho potato season dawns, premier grower-shipper Wada Farms touts more than the quality of its potatoes as it pitches its services to the buyer community.
Though it is one of the country’s largest suppliers of potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes, Director of Marketing Eric Beck said it is the company’s concierge service that sets it apart. “Our supply chain execution is designed to minimize bumps along the way,” he said. “We pay attention to details to meet the quality demands of our customers and provide them with a seamless end-to-end service.”
He added that the company searches out opportunities to be a service provider and not just a seller of its stable of fresh products.
But the 2023-24 potato crop will also allow the Idaho Falls, ID-based company to offer promotional opportunities on its full line of conventional and organic SKUs. The previous two years have featured short crops, high demand and FOB pricing often at record levels. “This year there has been an increase in acreage and yields,” Beck said. “The volume will be similar to an average crop over the past five to seven years. There will not be an oversupply of potatoes but there will be promotable volume throughout the season across the board.”
He added that organic volume will also be up but demand remains high and it may be a challenge to have supplies “as we approach the tail end of the season.”
Beck said there typically aren’t a lot of organic potato promotions at retail and he doesn’t expect that to change significantly this year, even with the uptick in volume. He did say there should be some promotional opportunities in that category.
Looking at overall consumer trends in the potato category, Beck said potatoes have done very well since COVID as consumers have embraced the potato for the value that it does offer. The price point on potatoes makes it one of the best bargains in the produce department even when the market is high. Beck said we are still living in a time where inflation is a factor and consumers are looking to stretch their dollar.
Though the long-term trend has seen consumers opt for a smaller bag of potatoes such as a five-pounder in place of a 10-pounder, when trying to stretch the budget, Beck said the larger SKUs offer value.
With good steady volume throughout the season, Beck expects retail pricing to be more in-line with pre-COVID years with less volatility on the FOB price. He did caution that the cost of growing potatoes has continued to climb and Wada Farms does not want to see potato prices drop significantly. “We expect a market correction that will be sustainable for growers and affordable for consumers,” he said.
Beck characterized the potato category as experiencing incremental growth with the varietals leading the way. “Yellows are continuing steady growth and reds are following a normal trajectory,” he said. “We see that growth continuing as more and more people find different ways to utilize potatoes in their menu planning.”
He reiterated once again that Wada Farms is focusing on serving their customers and finding new customers that want that special service.