50 for 50: Potandon Produce

Published online: Sep 13, 2021 50 for 50, Articles, Grower of the Month
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Throughout 2021, as part of Potato Grower’s celebration of our 50th year in publication, we will be honoring in our pages and on our website 50 of the potato industry’s most innovative and influential individuals, companies and organizations over the past half-century. This “50 for 50” series will include researchers, salesmen, packers, processors and, of course, plenty of potato growers. A lot of them will be names you’ve heard before. To some, you’ll get a fresh introduction. Regardless, each has had an outsize impact on the U.S. potato industry, and each deserves our thanks and recognition. To view the full roster of “50 for 50” honorees, click here
This article appears in the September 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

Potandon Produce is the largest marketer of fresh tablestock potatoes in the nation and also a leading marketer of fresh onions. From the company headquarters in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Potandon manages a nationwide network of growing and packing operations in every major shipping area, offering a continuous 52-week supply for fresh market channels. It serves as a marketing agent for numerous cooperatives made up of potato and onion growers from Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Minnesota, North Dakota, Florida and Texas. The formation and growth of Potandon Produce demonstrates how hard work, sticking to principles, and understanding the consumer can make all the difference. 

In the early 1990s The Pillsbury Company operated a single fresh potato plant in Shelley, Idaho. In 1995, while Pillsbury was in the middle of a company-wide series of changes, senior Pillsbury managers Jeff Sholl, Mel Davenport, Kent Romrell and Steve Ottum led a buyout of the fresh potato and onion division. In the buyout, they acquired the exclusive licensing rights to the Green Giant brand for fresh potatoes and onions in North America. With the transaction a new company, Potandon Produce LLC, was born, named for its foundation products: POTatoes AND Onions.

While business was growing in conventional potatoes and onions, management started work behind the scenes on developing and marketing something new, culminating in 2002 with the launch of Potandon’s now-famous Klondike Rose potatoes. The variety was heralded as the first new impactful variety to be introduced in fresh potatoes in several decades. Its introduction would serve as the catalyst for a revolution of change that continues in the industry today. Potandon followed soon thereafter with Klondike Goldust, which remains probably the most popular yellow potato North America.

Continuing its mission of innovation, Potandon started its own variety development company, SunRain Varieties, which has blossomed into one of the premier seed potato breeding companies in North America and the world. With world-class facilities capable of breeding and reproducing commercial potato seed, Potandon was able to develop proprietary varieties. SunRain’s facilities continue to grow in size and value; world-class testing facilities, a huge greenhouse complex, stem labs, and a seed farm in eastern Idaho are some of the key investments.

Potandon continues to demonstrate leadership across multiple levels of the potato industry. Whether consumers are buying Green Giant, Sunfresh, Klondike Brands, The Valley or Potandon brand fresh potatoes and onions, they are confident they’re getting some of the freshest, safest highest-quality produce available.