Fresh Solutions Network Continues to Innovate

Published online: Dec 30, 2017 Articles Keith Loria
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Source: The Produce News

Kathleen Triou is president and CEO of Fresh Solutions Network, a dedicated marketing services organization committed to the advancement of the fresh potato, sweet potato and onion categories. Collectively, Fresh Solutions Network is one of the five largest growers, packers and shippers of potatoes in the country.

“Fresh Solutions Network is a group of family-owned growers and shippers who choose to work together to make the potato and onion industry better for everyone,” says Triou. “They are the exclusive suppliers of the Side Delights brand of fresh potatoes.”

Fresh Solutions has been launching one to two new product lines every year for the past five years, and this year introduced its Side Delights’ A Cut Above fresh-cut line, which includes Carnival Cut French Fry and a Red Potato Skillet Diced items. The launch is limited to the East Coast at the moment.

“We are continuing to innovate,” Triou says. “In my opinion, the category should constantly be refreshed with new and exciting products for shoppers to try. Rotating through product lines seasonally keeps the convenience, gourmet and value-added segments fresh and exciting.”

The harvest was good for all Fresh Solutions partners, and the quality looks outstanding, according to estimates, with a good range of sizes expected for 2018.

“For Fresh Solutions, potato sales have been up versus a year ago,” says Triou. “We have created an inspiring potato portfolio of product lines under the Side Delights brand name that appeal to several types of potato consumers, satisfying multiple need states: value, convenience, all-in-one side dish, gourmet, single-serve, organic, etc.

“This comprehensive offering, along with award-winning packaging, grabs shoppers’ eyes and pulls them into trying something new or to remembering how much they love to have potatoes at dinner at home.”

While Triou notes there is no magic pill to be successful in the industry, in her experience, she would highlight consumer insight and customer service as being the most important traits.

“[We need] insight into the needs and wants of the potato consumer,” she says. “Trends impacting the consumer affect how they buy, [how they] cook, and the level of satisfaction they gain from their choices. At Fresh Solutions Network, we study the potato consumer, leverage lifestyle trends, and aim to surprise and delight the potato shopper.”

Triou says Fresh Solutions Network partners are customer service professionals. Beyond the farming, they deliver satisfaction to their customers via outstanding, trend-setting products, customized assortment and competitive insights to grow their business.  

“We believe that if you know more, you’ll grow more,” says Triou. “With Fresh Solutions, not only will you always know exactly what you’re buying and who you’re buying it from, you will also know why it makes sense to make those buys based on the competitive landscape. This type of knowledge is critical for success in today’s ever-increasingly competitive landscape.”

Recent trends Fresh Solutions has seen impact the potato category include convenience (easy prep, quick to cook), global flavor exploration, organic, gourmet varieties, petite sizes, single-serve/portion control and nutrition.  

“Potatoes have fought back against the misleading information of the anti-carb days,” Triou says. “Consumer magazines, websites and even Dr. Oz are now talking positively about our tasty, versatile, nutrient-dense vegetable in ways that give permission back to consumers to eat potatoes again.”

Package trends have included recyclable, sustainable, “do not harm” packaging. Packaging basics are still in vogue such as those that are colorful, tell a story, break through the clutter, and are harmonious within the brand. Packaging that performs a function is also trending, such as the type of packaging Fresh Solutions uses on its Side Delights Steamables (micro-perferated bags for use in the microwave).

Fresh Solutions Network recently completed its third food blogger challenge, #potatapowerbowl, featuring Side Delights Steamables potatoes, leveraging the growing popularity of “bowls.”

“Based on consumer studies, bowls were one of the hottest food and beverage trends for the year, with 2017 being called ‘The Year of Food Bowls,’” satsTriou. “Bloggers were challenged to create recipes for a one-bowl meal with any form of potatoes as the base (mashed, smashed, hash brown, diced, fries, scalloped, etc.), layered with protein, more vegetables and whatever else inspired the blogger.”

Some of the bloggers’ most creative recipes included the Savory Potato Breakfast Bowl, the classic Twice Baked Potato Bowl and the Nacho Potato Power Bowl—just in time for Super Bowl entertaining. The recipes can be viewed at www.SideDelights.com.