As we know, potatoes are staples of the produce department and usually find themselves among the top sellers each year. However, while these items don't typically need much help to leave the shelf, promoting them at the right time and using the right approach can give retailers a surprising boost to the bottom line.
Retail sales of yellow potatoes continue to grow while russets and reds are declining, though they still are the best-sellers by far, says John Toaspern, chief marketing officer for the Denver-based U.S. Potato Board: "White potatoes also stabilized this past year and seem to be regaining some share," he says. "Purples and fingerlings are still a very small percentage, but demand is growing. And the fastest growing products at retail are the small potatoes, often as a medley of types. These are petites, babies, creamers, pearls, etc."
Supermarketperimeter.com quotes Potatoes USA's fourth-quarter 2018-19 fiscal year report, using IRI sales data, says fresh potato retail sales from April-June were:
- russets — 592.1 million pounds, up 1.5% from Q4 2017-18 -- 63.7% of category volume sales
- reds — 151.6 million pounds, down 7.5%
- yellows — 100.7 million pounds, up 6.9%
- whites — 56.2 million pounds, up 15.5%
- medleys — 11 million pounds, up 24.5%
- fingerlings — 2.3 million pounds, down 0.2%
- purples/blues — 603,443 pounds, down 5.2%.
Potato retail tips
The market for yellow potatoes was very strong last year, as pricing and sales were strong, says Johnson of the Idaho Potato Commission.
"We have been working with retailers on understanding how to properly merchandise their departments to grow sales," he says. "The potato department is the largest volume driver in the vegetable category by more than double the volume of the next closest category (onions)."
This year, the Idaho Potato Commission ran a test with a large West Coast retailer to prove the effectiveness of secondary displays.
"In our test, we were able to see that test stores delivered a 22% increase in sales when compared to like stores," Johnson says. "Since potatoes are frequently located in the back of produce departments, an easy way to increase sales is by simply placing potatoes in a secondary location. Through various studies done by Nielsen and IRI, we know that basket sizes increase quite substantially when potatoes are purchased. Secondary displays really work!"