Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, potato sales at retail have been strong. A panel discussion of suppliers and retailers on Jan. 6 during the Potato Expo agreed that momentum will likely continue through 2021, as reported by Produce Market Guide News.
The panel was moderated by retail consultant Michael Sansolo and considered retail potato performance during the pandemic and what is needed to maintain brisk sales.
One thing that the pandemic did was “turn the lights back on in the kitchen,” said panelist Steve Williams, vice president of produce and floral for Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeastern Grocers. Williams does not see the cooking trend going away anytime soon and says that favors people who are growing and selling potatoes.
Even though potato sales have backed off since the first restrictions on restaurants in March, shoppers continue to make larger food purchases when they shop. According to Williams, communicating and working with suppliers on promotion efforts has been critical since the pandemic began.
Panelist Kevin Stanger, president of Idaho Falls-based Wada Farms Marketing Group, noted that retailers have been able to work with shippers to adapt to changing product availability during the pandemic. Stanger talked about the strong teamwork of the industry, including transportation, to ensure that product was back on shelves. He believes that strong retail potato movement will continue. Retail sales of 10-pound bags of potatoes have been on a slow and steady decline over the past few years, but Stanger said that the industry saw a 13% increase in 10-pound bagged potato sales in 2020, according to Nielsen data.
Stanger believes that foodservice sales will come back in 2021, but the recovery could be slow for six months or more.
Panelist Keith McGovern, president of Fargo, N.D.-based RD Offutt Farms, noted that potatoes have gained household penetration during the pandemic and the job now is to make sure potatoes are presented to younger consumers in exciting, fun and convenient ways.
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