During the beginning of the pandemic, there was unprecedented demand for potatoes. Consumers were buying and stockpiling them at home. “As the pandemic progressed, we continued to see a strong demand for all types of potatoes as they became a staple item that would be used when cooking at home,” says Andrew George, Senior Director of Sales for EarthFresh.
“We continue to see strong demand in both the Canadian and US markets, but some consumer habits have shifted over the past 2.5 years.” George makes a distinction between the retail segment and food service.
In retail, he is seeing strong demand for organic potatoes and yellow potatoes from health-conscious consumers and people continuing to cook at home. At the same time, there is a movement back to commodity offerings due to a pending recession. “As we are entering a more turbulent economy, consumers are becoming more conscious of how they spend their dollars,” George said. Within the food service segment, EarthFresh is glad to see their partners recover and pick business back up to a normalized level.
Andrew George with EarthFresh.
Located close to consumer markets
More recently, rising costs have affected all areas of the potato supply chain. From increased seed, growing and harvesting costs, to increased packaging costs and freight. “Everyone has been faced with the same challenges and is looking for ways to run their businesses as efficient as possible.,” said George. “Our strategy has always been to be positioned as close to our customers as possible and we’re seeing the importance of that during these times.”
EarthFresh’s Burlington, Ontario facility is conveniently located close to a large consumer area and is therefore able to deliver full-service potato programs just hours away from major hubs in the Greater Toronto area, the Northeastern US as well as the Midwest. “Being located close to our customers allows us to deliver programs with the least amount of freight and carbon footprint.” Similarly, the company’s newest facility in Atlanta, Georgia is located in a central hub to service the company’s Southeast US retail and foodservice partners as efficiently as possible.
EarthFresh offers hundreds of different potato pack sizes and formats. “It is a way to help deliver a program for every need in the marketplace, but also to help our retail partners achieve their goals,” said George. Most recently, the company has seen its Compostable Paper Packaging programs gain traction as retailers increasingly focus on sustainability. EarthFresh offers 3lb, 5lb, and 10lb sizes in a compostable program with both conventional and organic options. In the US, consumption habits are slightly different from Canada and the company is seeing its 3lb organic compostable programs showing nice growth. With kids going back to school and cooler weather making its way into the continent, the demand for convenient and value-added products goes up as people look for quick and easy sides.
Left: Compostable Paper Packaging. Right: Potato tray with Zesty Lemon Herb sauce from EarthFresh's new 'Fast. Fresh. Gourmet.' line up.
“We’ve been focused on bringing these types of convenient products to the market,” says Jessica Hughes, Director of Innovation with EarthFresh. Most recently, the ‘Fast. Fresh. Gourmet.’ line up of grill/oven ready potato trays has been launched. “These trays are ready to go and come in three healthy, gourmet ready-to-serve sauces: Jamaican Style Jerk, Zesty Lemon Herb, and Rosemary & Olive Oil. All sauces are made with only clean ingredients, are gluten- and dairy-free, contain no artificial preservatives, and contain no refined sugar. Further, each flavour is high in fiber and potassium, cholesterol-free, low in fat, and low in calories. “This line has been developed ensuring it checks all the boxes of fresh, convenient, healthy, and tasty,” Hughes said.