Supplies may be long or short, but retailers make sure potatoes are featured on regular ads, growers and shippers in Washington and Oregon say.
“When we come out of the chute with a new crop, especially in the fall-winter, retailers do a good job of promoting potatoes,” said Shane Marston, salesman with Jones Produce Inc., Quincy, Wash. “There aren’t too many weeks when retailers don’t have potatoes somewhere in the ad or as a main feature.
“As we get to the summer, we’re running toward the end of our crop and all the fruit items and stone fruit and cherries and grapes and berries and all that, promotions do die down, but the retailers are still promoting potatoes because it is a staple item that customers continue to look for.”
Among Washington and Oregon retailers, locally grown promotions are often part of the package, Marston said.
“We work with local retailers here in the state of Washington and, absolutely, we like to get the homegrown pitch or local deal,” he said. “It definitely helps the retailers. But we ship product all over the U.S., so obviously, it doesn’t work for every customer.”
Retail programs like the U.S. Potato Board’s Best in Class are part of the push, said Mike Connors, sales director for Pasco, Wash.-based Basin Gold Cooperative Inc.
“What we’ve seen from the retailers participating in the Best in Class program is that they have all seen increases in their sales,” Connors said.
Best in Class is a program that helps retailers focus on issues like assortment, nonpeak promotions, packaging options, pricing strategies, displays and communications strategies.
“That’s been a very positive program,” Connors said.
Supplies can interfere with retail promotions, at least to a degree, however, said Les Alderete, director of production and grower development for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos.
“They’re trying to do more ads. The problem you had this year, with the crop being so tight, was that it was hard to do ads because supplies were so tight,” he said. “I think going into this season, you may see more ads than you had in the past.”
Shorter supplies leading to fewer promotions is no surprise, said Chris Voigt, executive director of the Moses Lake-based Washington State Potato Commission.
“I’m assuming they are not promoting potatoes because supplies are very tight now,” he said.
The hardy nature of potatoes helps compensate for occasional supply shortages, where retail promotions are concerned, said Larry Sieg, Washington sales manager with the Pasco, Wash., office of Potandon Produce LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“They’re building displays but I think a little bit of it also is, with weather conditions all across all crops, the potatoes were a good item for them to run,” he said. “The potatoes were available all winter while other crops were all short.”
Retailers help move potatoes by consistently keeping a mix of spuds in their ads, said Dan Strebin, owner of Troutdale, Ore.-based Strebin Farms.
“The commodity prices are extremely high. It’s hard to go out and promote expensive product, but they can still put it out there and do their promotions because, really, in the world of produce there is nothing cheap in the marketplace,” he said.
Regular promotions are helpful, said Allen Floyd, president of Othello, Wash.-based Harvest Fresh Produce Inc.
“It’s been a steady deal,” he said. “Our movement has been steady all year. It’s had ups and downs, but it’s been a fairly reasonable movement this year.”