IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Grower-shippers are expecting a strong year for retail bag sales.
With smaller sizes likely this season, consumer bag sales could make a higher percentage of total sales, said Ralph Schwartz, vice president of marketing, sales and innovation for Potandon Produce.
And the size of those bags may surprise some people.
“Five-pound polys drive a big percentage of the business. This year we’ll see 8- and 10-pounders take a more prominent role with ads at retail.”
Gary Garnand, owner of Twin Falls-based Garnand Marketing LLC, didn’t see one recent Idaho potato packaging trend coming.
“We’re seeing some increase in 3-pound bags, which has surprised me.”
One reason Garnand is surprised is price-related.
“It’s an expensive pack. There’s less opportunity at retail to have it as a loss leader.”
On the other hand, Garnand can see the attraction, especially in today’s smaller households.
A consumer may use all three pounds up in one week. The 10-pounder, on the other hand, may take two weeks or longer to get through, and two or three spuds may have to get thrown away.
That said, Garnand described his 5- and 10-pound bag business as “fairly steady.”
Tray packs and individually-wrapped microwaveable spuds also are getting more popular, Garnand said.
“Both of those are inching into bakers at retail.”
The mix of bulk and packaged potatoes at Garnand Marketing stays fairly steady year-to-year, Garnand said.
Ryan Wahlen, sales manager for Aberdeen-based Pleasant Valley Potatoes Inc., agrees with Garnand that the 3- and 4-pound bags’ price is “hard to justify.”
When you’re paying a similar price for a 5-pound bag, it doesn’t make sense to get the 3-pounder, Wahlen said.
But, also like Garnand, he says they are becoming more popular.
“I can’t say they’re huge increases, but there is more demand for 3s and 4s. I think it’s a function of smaller households.”
Wahlen reported consistent demand for Pleasant Valley’s microwaveable spuds.
“It’s a fairly specific customer base. Some convenience stores are taking them.”
One convenience store chain sells microwaveables next to 5-pound bags, Wahlen said. Both products are merchandised in display-ready boxes with perforated sides that come off easily.