It’s been a strange season for Canadian potatoes.
Following last week’s USDA announcement that potatoes from Prince Edward Island will soon be able to resume exporting into the U.S. after a multi-month ban on exports, in turn that should positively impact the Ontario potato market.
Quinton Woods (above) of Gwillimdale holds a bag of the grower's new line, the Conscious Consumption™ line of potatoes.
“There’s been an abundance of potatoes across the country but we’re hopeful that will release pressure on Ontario,” says Quinton Woods of Gwillimdale Farms in Bradford, ON.
This comes at a time when demand has been what Woods describes as strange. “These last three months have been worse than a roller coaster. One week you’re extremely busy and the next week you’re sitting on your hands,” he says. He also adds that foodservice has not fully returned which also impacts demand. “There’s a false sense of foodservice picking up even though there’s a large segment of the foodservice industry still not up and running such as cafeterias in office buildings. People also aren’t back at work and not eating at fast food outlets or restaurants as much,” he says. “The dinnertime service is picking up but we’re not feeling that demand from the lunchtime office building rush. I’d say we’re still missing 40 percent of the foodservice industry.”
Pushing on pricing
Meanwhile, pricing is up on potatoes. “Prices are the highest we’ve seen but margins are diminishing, no matter what increases we get. We’re being squeezed in multiple ways--fertilizer is up 53 percent, fuel is twice the price of this time last year and unfortunately consumers are going to have to pay for it,” Woods says. “The costs of retail goods are so high right now that families are starting to make things go further. With the rise of inflation, people are going to come to deciding between fuel and putting food on the table.”
Conscious Consumption is a full line of retail packed #2 product at a discounted price.
However, Gwillimdale is introducing a new product at this year’s CPMA show (booth #1301), taking place in Montreal, QC April 5-7, that could tap into a few consumer buying trends (including money saving) and this could also help potato demand. It will introduce its Conscious Consumption line, which is a full line of retail packed #2 product.
Covering three consumer interests
“We’ve had an ongoing struggle with dumping and disposing of perfectly good potatoes with minor blemishes for years,” says Woods. “So this multifaceted product is a triple threat: it diverts food waste; it’s sustainable since it’s in a fully compostable bag with a sustainable product; and its price point. We’re coming to market with a good quality number two product that’s environmentally friendly at a discounted price.”
Woods says it has invested in a fully automated line to support its new product.
Along with looking forward to introducing this new line, Woods also wants to get back out face to face with customers to reconnect and share what Gwillimdale has been up to for the last two years. “A lot happens in a year in this industry and we’ve taken the opportunity to invest,” he says. “With this new product coming out we’ve invested in a fully automated line from stem to stern. We have a lot of things to showcase and we’re excited.”