A Canadian company is livening up the potato category by raising awareness for the health benefits of potatoes as well as offering a unique, high-quality product that is sourced from all around the world.
"EarthFresh has been focusing on bringing a more unique product to market for more than 50 years," said Stephanie Cutaia, Marketing Director of EarthFresh Farms. One of the ways the company does this is by packing potatoes in light blocking bags, saying this contributes to reducing premature greening at the store level. "In today’s 'farm-to-cart' process, exposure to light is the primary cause of potato greening. With an estimated 170kg of food thrown out by Canadians per year, we are trying to do our share to eliminate potato shrink at the store level. 12 hours of fluorescent lighting in grocery stores can induce potato greening depending on the variety, humidity and temperature. Our fresh potatoes are packed in recyclable bags with light blocking technology that prolongs shelf life and minimizes food waste,” Cutaia shared.
Paper packaging options
She added that consumers are interested, not just in a longer shelf life, but also to minimize plastic waste. "According to Mintel Global Packaging Trends 2018, 61 percent of Canadian fruit and vegetable buyers say they would be interested in packaging that keeps food fresh longer. We also know that environmentally conscious consumers are increasingly demanding more suitable packaging and zero waste products. Paper bags are making a comeback as consumers veer away from plastics and as a result, we are looking at new biodegradeable paper packaging options for all our products."
Most consumers are familiar with the white, yellow, red and Russet potatoes that are ubiquitous in stores. More recently, we have seen companies introduce more varieties into their lineup. Many of these varieties are not new, but rather are older ones that have been less commercialized. There are also potato varieties that are more common is some parts of the world than others.
EarthFresh Farms has created a program to source potatoes that are more common in other parts of the world alongside its regular offerings, as well as continuing to expand its organic line. "We search the world for unique potato varieties," Cutaia said. "We believe that consumers like trying new varieties and some even draw a connection to their heritage. Many of the varieties come from Germany, the Netherlands, Chile, France and Belgium. One of the newer potatoes we are launching in our Potatoes of the World program is a red-skinned, red-fleshed variety from Germany that is beautiful and tastes fantastic – it’s called Red Emmalie."
"66 percent of Canadian shoppers are purchasing organic items weekly, according to the Canadian Organic Trade Association 2017 Consumer report," she continued. "Our current organic line has something for everyone – 5, 3 & 1.5 lb pack sizes, minis (reds, yellows and even a tri-coloured mixed pack), organic reds, yellows, whites and russets. Our 1.5 lb Organic Mixed Mini package will be featured in the New Product Showcase at the CPMA. We also keep our eyes focused on health & wellbeing trends – our new Vitality pack offers consumers a potato blend high in anti-oxidants. Millennials and Baby Boomers are the biggest demographic and both are looking for healthier food items, convenient and value-added products and smaller pack sizes. In fact, 52 percent of Millennials have increased their consumption of fresh vegetables in the past 10 years."
Tough year to launch new lines
As Cutaia mentioned, one of the newer lines for EarthFresh Farms is Vitality, designed for consumers seeking out healthier options in the produce section. However, the launch year did not go as planned with the company having to pull the product earlier than expected. This was due to tough growing conditions that have affected many of the potato growing regions in North America.
"The 2018 crop was a difficult one, most parts of Canada experienced extreme weather patterns in each season - hot & dry summer, wet & cold fall," noted EarthFresh Farms' Field Manager, Len Brackenbury.
Brackenbury added, "Sourcing of product can be a challenge even in a normal crop year. At EarthFresh we depend on our many dedicated growers and suppliers throughout Canada and the US to supply us with appropriate volumes and qualities of produce for our customers. Much like a puzzle there are many pieces that fit together. Supply from different growing regions all fit into this puzzle, however this year there were a few pieces missing. Regions that were hardest hit by the drought had less product available and we had to procure product from other suppliers or move to different suppliers in different regions. Quality from this crop has been an ongoing issue, our suppliers did the best they could with the conditions Mother Nature threw at them and EarthFresh has done its best to ensure that the quality of product that we deliver to our customers is up to the high standards that we have built our reputation on."
"This year was a tough year to launch Vitality. We had a good response from several retailers but had to pull the product due to quality concerns. With 45 percent of Canadians interested in trying foods that boost health, we think we have a great new product for Canadian potato lovers and will re-launch this September."
Stephanie Cutaia at last year's CPMA in front of a potato art wall.
EarthFresh Farms will once again be exhibiting at CPMA in Montreal next month. Last year, the company took home the award for Best Island booth and will be aiming to reproduce this feat in the 2019 edition of CPMA. "We try to make our trade show booths a destination and create a bond with our trade visitors," Cutaia shared. "In the past we have replicated country kitchens, martini bars (serving mashtinis) and last year we created a stunning potato art wall. This year we won’t disappoint, offering our visitors some delicious and thirst-quenching organic offerings to sample."
She concluded by announcing that EarthFresh will have their entire product line on display, with a special emphasis on organics. "Our focus at CPMA will be to connect with our current customers in a fun, natural environment. EarthFresh is committed to creating and maintaining a healthy environment to grow our crops. Our proprietary varieties have helped make us one of the leading organic potato companies in North America."
Attendees at CPMA can visit EarthFresh Foods at Booth #809.