Potato and onion growers are hoping they can capitalize on trends in home cooking and foodservice to spur consumption by time-strapped consumers.
Ralph Schwartz, vice president of marketing, sales and innovation for Potandon Produce, Idaho Falls, Idaho, said he eats potatoes two or three nights per week but admits most consumers don’t think they have time to eat potatoes that often.
“A big part of that is the time it takes to cook them,” he said. Potandon’s microwave varieties have taken off and are the fastest-growing part of the business, he said. “We do not even know where the top of that is going to be.”
Substituting sweet onions for conventional onions is part of the strategy promoted by John Shuman, president and director of sales for Shuman Produce Inc., Reidsville, Ga.
“Consumers continue to support the trend of cooking at home,” he said, hoping to promote the sale of more Peruvian sweet onions over the holidays. “Dishes like French onion soup and a variety of stews and casseroles are enhanced by the flavor of sweet onions.”
Marty Kamer, vice president of Keystone Fruit Marketing, Greencastle, Pa., also plans to promoting sweet onions during the fall and winter cooking seasons, offering promotions ranging from tailgating to holiday cooking and easy crockpot meals.
Sherise Jones, marketing director for the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee, Parma, Idaho, said the organization will put foodservice “front and center” in this year’s promotions.
“Developing new recipes builds loyalty for the people we serve,” she said.
The committee hired a culinary expert from Chicago to develop 15 regional dishes involving onions. The organization is following a trend of putting a twist on comfort foods with dishes like shrimp and grits with onion straws, Manhattan steak with blue cheese and onion sauce and a Tex-Mex caramelized onion waffle with jalapeno honey.
Frank Muir, president of the Idaho Potato Commission in Eagle, Idaho, plans to employ another nationally airing commercial produced by EvansHardy+Young of Santa Barbara, Calif. The commission also is highlighting the search for its 6-ton potato truck with two Idaho potato growers flying a 1943 open cockpit Stearman biplane looking for it.
“It’s a dramatic way to drive home our seal,” he said.
The truck will also be on the road for two more years, encouraging gawkers to look for the “Grown in Idaho” seal, he said.
Delbert Bland, owner and president of Bland Farms, Glenville, Ga., will promote his new sweet potatoes side-by-side with sweet onions this year in an eye-catching bin.
“It gives us an opportunity to catch a sale of two very healthy, fast selling products,” he said.
Bland is double cropping the sweet potatoes with his onions this year, saying the land and water is appropriate for both.