Conventional Growers Make Organic Switch

Published online: Apr 30, 2015 Cynthia David
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Offering organic potatoes has become a winning move for some conventional grower-shippers.

“All the data we analyze reinforces the fact that organic demand is here to stay,” said Ralph Schwartz, vice president of marketing, sales and innovation for Idaho Falls, Idaho–based Potandon Produce, which works with organic growers across the country.

Though Potandon isn’t a major organic player, they have “had year-over-year volume increases for the past five years and see its potential,” Schwartz said.

He said the first run of Potandon’s bright new organic bags, launched in late February, will be available in Boston, Central Ohio, Wisconsin and eastern Washington.

The company also packs private-label organics for several large retail customers.

Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE says its three organic varieties introduced last year under the petite-sized Tasteful Selections brand, and organic russets, reds and golds packed under the Old Oak Farms label, are all doing well.

“Customers who know our brand and are looking for organic are happy to have those options,” said vice president of marketing Randy Shell.

At Los Angeles-based Progressive Produce, vice president Jack Gyben has watched his organic potato program grow dramatically over the last three years.

“I see an explosion of organics,” said Gyben, who grows russets, reds and golds in the Pacific Northwest, western Canada and California for major retail chains across the country.

Creating the right organic items for the consumer is essential, he said.

“One customer wanted to do regular 5-pound bags,” he said, “but we directed them into 3-pound bags. They’re harder and less efficient to pack, but organic households tend to be smaller, and a smaller package makes the higher-priced organics accessible to a broader consumer base, prompting quicker trial and faster acceptance.”

To ensure organic potatoes sold in bulk are rung up accurately in stores, Gyben said Progressive is working on ways to improve the labeling process.

As for taste, he said people often buy organics to feel good, or because they have a desire to consume something organic, rather than because they taste significantly better.


Source: The Packer