US potato industry scrambles to meet consumer demand

Potato growers and shippers are working overtime to keep American grocery stores stocked with enough goods to meet skyrocketing consumer demand. With restaurants closing and governors forcing people to stay home, grocery stores are struggling to keep potatoes in stock, and many suppliers have exhausted supplies earmarked for retail consumption, said Blair Richardson, CEO of Denver-based Potatoes USA, a marketing organization for the industry. "Stores are selling out of potatoes as soon as they get them in," Richardson said.

He quickly added that United States does not have a potato shortage. While retail demand is surging, demand from the food service sector -- restaurants, caterers, cafeterias -- is plummeting.

"It's not that we're out of potatoes," said Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission, based in Boise. "We have enough potatoes to get people through this crisis. It's just that we don't have them in the right place." Many retailers have burned through their supplies, which tend to be smaller potatoes packaged in 5-, 10- and 15-pound bags, Muir said.

As reported on, suppliers are working to reroute potatoes originally intended for the food service industry to supermarkets and grocery outlets. These larger boxes are beginning to appear in stores across the country.

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