Despite the sluggish economy, some Wisconsin potato grower-shippers are still bullish on value-added packages in 2009.


In the works for Russet Potato Exchange, Bancroft, Wis., is a series of value-added, foil-wrapped steam packs, said Russell Wysocki, owner. A launch date for the products has not yet been announced, he said.


The company has plans this year to increase by 400% production of its new wrapped “grillers,” Wysocki said — spuds that can go straight from the grocery bag to the grill.


The product is an unexpected hit in its first season this year, Wysocki said.


“That’s been a bigger surprise for me in terms of movement,” he said. “It’s not huge volume, but it is a nice, unique product.”


Retailers had done a good job of promoting the grillers during summer grilling season thus far, Wysocki said.


The company’s Biggins Singles individually wrapped microwaveable potatoes also continue to be big sellers, Wysocki said.


“We’re able to give better quality and a price point consumers like,” he said.


Tim Verpoorten, a salesman for Plover, Wis.-based Katz Produce Sales LLC, agreed.


“It makes a big difference when the price is reasonable,” he said. “It’s a nice product. People like to pick something like that up.”


Demand for individually wrapped microwaveable spuds has been “pretty steady” for Katz in 2008, and for the 2009 crop, the company hopes to open up a few more markets, Verpoorten said.


Spud City Sales LLC, Stevens Point, Wis., is looking forward to strong third-year sales of the bilingual vented bag it introduced in 2007, said Tom Lundgren, owner and president.


“They’ve gone over very well,” he said. “It’s incredible how people notice it. The breathability on them is phenomenal.”


The bags, which come in brown for russets and red for red potatoes, contain dozens of small holes that allow spuds to breathe and stay dry in transit, Lundgren said.


Available in 4-, 5-, 8-, 10-, 15- and 20-pound sizes, the Spud City Sales-branded bags feature a graphic of a field and city skyline.


The bags are bilingual and feature nutrition information and a recipe on the back.


It’s the lower end of that bag size range that’s seeing the most growth for Spud City, on both the vented bags and the company’s other packs, Lundgren said.


“We’ve moved a ton of 4s in the past year,” he said. “Sixty percent of American households have one or two people, and that’s not going to change for awhile, but it’s amazing how many 10-pound bags you still sell,” he said.