As the holiday season gets closer, demand for Wisconsin potatoes is stronger than last year.
“We have a good supply of Wisconsin red and gold potatoes from this year’s crop along with an excellent supply of year-round of russet potatoes,” says Christine Lindner, marketing manager for Friesland, WI-based Alsum Farms & Produce. Lindner adds that the company continues to add potato acreage. “We are up by 175 acres over last year to a total of more than 2,700 acres planted this year. Our russet, red and gold potato supply is up since we grew more acres of potatoes than the previous year.”
While Alsum’s primary growing region is Wisconsin, it does market other Midwestern-grown potatoes from its partner farms. “Specific to the Midwest market, consumers seek out local and Wisconsin-grown potatoes are positioned to fill that demand,” she says.
Larry Alsum of Alsum Farms.
Future buying decisions
While the company’s customer base is primarily retail, the continued uncertainty in the state of the foodservice industry makes it challenging for suppliers to come up with an effective marketing plan for potatoes. “They don’t know how long their customers who operate restaurants will be closed or operate with limitations. There’s been a drastic shift and reduction for foodservice with Safer at Home orders in place across the country halting these restaurants to take out/curbside only options,” she says. “Additionally, reduced consumer income will also impact buying decisions at retail in the weeks ahead.”
That said, potatoes are one of the commodities that have seen strong demand throughout the pandemic. Lindner notes that potato volume at retail is trending well above levels seen a year ago thanks to not only pandemic effects, but a recent round of pandemic buying in the Midwest. “Potatoes being a mature produce category are finding resurgence as a pantry staple by consumers. Some retail customers are experiencing a 25 percent+ lift over last year’s volume amidst the lingering pandemic,” says Lindner.
As for pricing, it is stable heading into the winter months.
Increased holiday volume
Looking ahead, Lindner says Alsum is preparing to pack holiday potato volume at 15 percent and higher over last year. She also notes its currently promoting ad volume for reds on both A and B-size reds and B-size gold potatoes.
Part of that increased volume could be attributed to holiday gatherings looking different this year. Holidays are typically families getting together in their homes and while gatherings might look smaller the holidays will drive potato sales at retail.
Other COVID-19 related buying trends will also continue. “Consumers will continue to cook at home and demand at retail by consumers seeking nutritional and local foods will continue to stay well above last year’s levels for the foreseeable future,” says Lindner, adding that the majority of potatoes moving through retail currently are five and 10 lb. bags. “Consumers prefer that others are not touching their food within the produce aisle,” she says.
Accelerated online grocery shopping is also likely to continue thanks to the pandemic. “According to Kantar Research, 75 percent of consumers plan to continue using curbside pickup with a permanent increase and the use of online grocery shopping is here to stay for the long term,” says Lindner.