There was a time when 10-pound bags were the most popular package in the potato category. Now some consumers are satisfied with one individually wrapped spud.
“It is a combination of smaller household sizes, more frequent store visits, and probably a frugality on the part of consumers,” said Dick Okray, president of Okray Family Farms Inc., Plover, Wis.
“Spuds are always a great value at retail, costing only pennies per serving. But if prices are deemed high, people will naturally buy less,” he said.
Mike Carter, chief executive officer of Bushman’s Inc., Roshold, Wis., agreed that consumers have become wiser and more frugal.
“In the past, people sometimes bought more than they really needed and didn’t necessarily use it all,” he said. “Consumers are trending towards smaller bags. We’re still packing 10-pound bags, but it’s shifting to five-pound bags an even 2 1/2 to 3-pound bags.
“With smaller families, people are eating differently and preparing meals differently. Microwave potatoes are becoming a bigger seller,” Carter said.
Rick Kantner, director of sales and marketing for Alsum Farms & Produce Inc., Friesland, Wis., said frequency of use is more important than the size of bags.
In other words, are consumers buying more varieties of potatoes more often than in the past.
“The objective for us is to increase the number of meals per week that involve potatoes,” said Kantner, whose company offers recipes on its website and Facebook page and on packaging.
Randy Shell, vice president of marketing and new business development for Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE Inc., said that although the largest increase in sales are in smaller packages, volume is still driven by 5- and 10-pound bags.
However, Shell predicted significant growth in smaller packages because of growing consumer interest in specialty potatoes, including product’s like RPE’s baby potato line, Tasteful Selections.
Wisconsin’s crop is expected to be above the state’s five-year average in volume, which could lead to favorable price points for consumers after two years of below average yields.
The Perishables Group reported that for the 52-week period ending April 28, overall potato prices were nearly 11 percent higher than a year ago.
“Tens and fives are still the mainstays when it comes to retail ads,” said Tom Lundgren, owner of Stevens Point-based Spud City Sales. “However, when prices were higher, many retailers changed to 8- and 4-pound bags to keep the same price point.”