Exceeding Expectations

Published online: Apr 06, 2021 Articles Dana Rady, Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association
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This article appears in the April 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

Fresh Wisconsin potato sales more than doubled during a period in which the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) Promotions Committee partnered with a major retail chain in the Windy City last fall.

As the dominant retail chain in Chicago, Jewel Osco reports a 58.5 percent increase in dollar sales and an 89.8 percent increase in units between Oct. 14 and Nov. 3, 2020, compared with the same period the previous year. The data includes sales of russets, reds and yellows that are part of the chain’s brand, Signature Farms.

The promotion across Jewel Osco’s 188 stores included in-store displays and banners, T-shirts for employees, consumer ads, a static billboard and two digital posters, all strategically placed in areas with high volumes of traffic.

The displays and ads lasted three weeks, though Jewel confirmed many produce employees continued wearing their shirts beyond the promotion.

The retail chain also confirmed potato sales overall remained up over 10 percent from the end of the promotion through December 2020.

That statistic is one Bushmans’ Inc. director of business development Michael Gatz says would not have occurred without effective implementation at each store. Bushmans’ Inc. is the main potato brokerage for Jewel Osco and purchases potatoes from a number of Wisconsin growers who are part of its supply group.

“It all comes down to execution at the store level to make [promotions like these] successful,” Gatz says.

In general, fresh potato sales have remained consistent since COVID-19 took hold in the U.S. in early 2020. However, Gatz says the sales data from Jewel in the fresh potato category were still higher than reports from other retail chains in the same period.

“We did not see this spike in sales at other retail stores of the same size during the same time frame,” Gatz remarks, a point that indicates an expansion on top of the already existing increase attributed to COVID-19.

Ultimately, this means more Wisconsin potatoes getting into the hands of more consumers, as recognition of the importance of buying local spreads. And that is certainly something worth celebrating.