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Beat ‘em to the Punch

It’s not news that in order to survive you have to be thinking ahead of your customer. You have to know what they want before they want it. Product needs to be on the shelves waiting for them when they realize that’s what they need. And if you wait until they ask for it to start the development phase, you may be too late.

So, as cliché as it may sound, the future really is now. Growers working on developing new products now are the ones who are going to be successful.

And those who attended the first Potato Industry Outlook Summit heard this from nearly every speaker.

“Unless we find some way of developing new demand for potatoes, we are going to be struggling as an industry with the need to reduce acreage on a continual basis year to year,” said Bruce Huffaker, of the North American Potato Market News.

Much of that new demand could come in the form of value-added products that are convenient to use and answer the needs of every consumer – including the 1- to 2-person households – who make up more than 60 percent of the households in the United States. The potato industry is missing out on that segment of the nation.

A single man or woman is not going to buy a 10-pound bag of bakers. They want something quick, easy and fun – something they can pop in the microwave or drop in a frying pan when they get home from work. And, they have the disposable income to pay a little more for those products.

As a single person who lives alone, I would rather pay a few extra bucks for something I know won’t go to waste than a large bag of potatoes, which are almost always on sale, that I’ll have to throw away.

According to a presentation by Bruce Axman, of Perishables Group, at the Outlook Summit, the item count in the produce department has doubled in the past five years, with fresh-cut making up a majority of this growth.

It’s time for the potato industry to take note. And some of you have. You’re right in there on the cutting edge of product development. But it’s time to expand that effort and offer more products that will appeal to every segment of the population – including us single people who often get forgotten in the fight for the families’ dollars.


Originally posted Saturday, Apr. 7, 2007

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