Demand for specialty potato varieties is growing. Red and yellow varieties in particular have seen the most growth.
Demand for specialty potato varieties is growing. Red and yellow varieties in particular have seen the most growth.

Red and yellow potatoes remain popular, but could cause further declines in russet sales, according to some grower-shippers.

“We continue to see 5% annual growth in our specialty potato varieties grown in Washington. Fingerlings, purples, specialty yellows and reds, are all becoming more commonplace in the retail environment,” said Chris Voigt, executive director, Washington State Potato Commission, Moses Lake.

Others agree, and have noticed russets taking a small hit as a result.

“Demand on variety potatoes has been up across the board this season, while russet demand has been down by 10%,” said Barbara Keckler, marketing manager at Potandon Produce LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Others agree that colored varieties are gaining ground on the russets.

“Russet is still by far the most often used potato, but red and yellow varieties continue to gain ground in consumer popularity as a fresh potato,” said Paul Dolan, president of Associated Potato Growers Inc., Grand Forks, N.D.

Meredith Myers, public relations manager, U.S. Potato Board, Denver, said russets are almost 69% of the market, down three points in the last quarter.

“They are still dominating, but have seen a little decline,” she said, citing data from the Nielsen Perishables Group 2013 fourth quarter report.

Suppliers have seen retailers make a greater effort to offer more potato options.

“Retailers are once again making a push toward expanding their variety presence at store level,” said Keckler. “New varieties are making appearances in large retailers for in/out types of promotions which add a huge image boost to the stores.”

Specialty potato offerings are still up in consumer popularity. However, red and yellow varieties have seen the most growth.

Keckler said that shipments of red potatoes are up 12.1% and yellow shipments are up 52.7%. White potatoes have also seen increases, with round white potatoes up 23% and long whites up 30%.

Keckler hasn’t seen an increase in demand for fingerlings, saying that variety has leveled off.

Sheldon Rockey, managing director for the Mountainside, N.J.-based Specialty Potato Alliance, said the demand for specialty potatoes has been stable, with a little growth.

“We haven’t seen the same growth as when we first started, especially with the fingerlings,” he said.

Still, consumers are still looking for new potato options to cook at home.

Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Monte Vista, said it’s all about finding that trendy potato, especially for younger home cooks.

“The millennial generation is especially interested in trying new things. For them, when they cook, it’s more about an experience, so they want to try new recipes and ideas, whether it’s a fingerling variety or a new red or yellow,” he said.