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Market Outlook

Louis Wysocki was the driving force.

The first annual Potato Industry Outlook Summit was held Dec. 9 thanks to the ideas and energy of Mr Wysocki, a Wisconsin potato grower/shipper.

More than 250 people attended the summit, which was held in Colorado Springs the day before the National Potato Council’s Seed Seminar. Here are some highlights.

Bruce Axman encouraged the potato industry to develop innovative products. He said more than 30,000 new grocery products are rolled out each year, and the number of items in produce departments has doubled in five years.

Bruce Huffaker described the supply and demand situation for the 2004 crop. His forecasting model predicts that the small reduction in 2004 supply will cause fresh potato prices to increase.

Patrick Davis of McCain Foods told participants that world market shares for frozen potato processing are: McCain 31 percent, Lamb Weston 21 percent, Simplot 15 percent and others 33 percent. He also gave the results of a survey of the most frequently ordered foods at restaurants. The top three for men were (1) burgers, (2) fries and (3) pizza. The results for women were: (1) fries, (2) pizza and (3) burgers.

Bob Shearer reminded the group of the 150th anniversary of the potato chip and discussed a defeated proposal by anti-fat activists to impose a tax on snack foods.

Dennis Conley spoke about the 50-year-old dehydrated potato industry, which uses about 10 percent of the U.S. crop. Although overcapacity is a concern the dehydration market has been expanding about 2.5 percent per year.

Mac Johnson covered eating trends and retail prices. He told a story about a consumer who bought potting soil and potatoes at a supermarket and discovered that potatoes really were “cheaper than dirt.”

Larry Noedel discussed consumer demographics and said that households with children and those with empty nesters are the potato industry’s best customers.

John Toaspern presented information about U.S. potato exports, including the impacts of currency exchange rates and market access.

Kathy Beals pointed out the difference between fads, which are short-term changes in behavior and trends, which are long-term. She believes that extreme-carb-limited diets are a fad but that moderate-carb-limited diets are a trend.

John Chinn spoke about popular potato products in the UK where he is a grower. The category of ‘salad’ or ‘baby new’ potatoes is growing rapidly. Those potatoes are small with a wax-like texture and are promoted as healthful and easy to prepare.

Tim O’Connor also talked about the need for innovative potato products. He discussed examples from other industries, including berries, mushrooms, coconuts, citrus and salads.

Terry Soto presented information about the U.S. Hispanic market. She said Hispanics are rapidly increasing their purchasing power, shop for food often, enjoy cooking, eat potatoes for breakfast often and have six core cultural values that should be recognized in marketing efforts.

Rob Campbell shared his experience in exporting potatoes. His firm, California Oregon Seed, has had successful experiences in exporting both seed potatoes and chipping potatoes.

Albert Wada was the last speaker. He talked about the development of a new fresh potato grower cooperative in Idaho. Interest in other regions could lead to the development of several state co-ops under the umbrella of a national organization.

Louis Wysocki got the ball rolling, but Chris Voigt, Tim O’Connor, John Keeling and others helped develop the Potato Industry Outlook Summit. Although market-related presentations are often included in other potato industry meetings, the new summit brings them together in one event.

Joseph Guenthner is professor of agricultural economics with the University of Idaho.

Originally posted Saturday, Apr. 7, 2007

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