(Aug. 9) DENVER — Younger consumers and one- and two-person household shoppers don’t think much about buying potatoes when they steer their shopping carts through the produce aisle.

Many of them rarely stop their cart in front of the potato display.

Their actions are symptomatic of a potato industry that doesn’t offer new products appealing to changing consumer tastes.

Research conducted for the U.S. Potato Board, Denver, shows the industry has problems marketing potatoes to these consumers.

“People want Mercedes, and we’re putting out used cars and minivans,” said Tim O’Connor, the board’s president and chief executive officer.

“More sophisticated consumers want 1-, 2- and 3-pound bags. They want new varieties, different eating experiences. The product has to scream, ‘This will make a good dinner tonight.’”

YOUNG AND OLD

People younger than 29 years and older than 55 years are projected to show the most significant population growth for the next 50 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These fastest-growing age groups, the empty nesters, double-income couples with no kids and single adults, consume fresh potatoes at well below average rates.

Darrell Genthner, sales director and category manager for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc., Montvale, N.J., said potato board research showing most consumers think of buying potatoes while visiting the meat or seafood departments could help attract such consumers to consider buying potatoes.

Genthner said the 855-store chain is considering displaying some of its potatoes outside of the produce section.

“That’s where the consumers are really thinking about potato purchasing, at that time or (when considering) their side dish,” he said.

CONVENIENCE

Quick and easy family meal solutions and family packs that provide total dinner plans would make shopping and meal preparation easier, O’Connor said.

New convenient potato offerings with modern graphics depicting trendy potato dishes could help attract urban consumers and smaller households that represent more than half of the U.S. population.

A&P is offering smaller potato packages — 24-ounce packages and 2- and 3-pound bags — to help win back such consumers.

“We have seen an increase in sales on the smaller packages,” Genthner said.

“That has really given us some growth for the category,” he said.