January 2009
Fresh Potato Sales Up

The decline in potato consumption seen over the last 10 years appears to be leveling off, and retail purchases of potato products are increasing, according to a report released in October by the United Fresh Produce Association.

Fruits and vegetables typically track like commodities: As volume goes down, price goes up and vice versa. But the United Fresh data, compiled by the Perishables Group from March 30 through June 28, shows an increase in volume, sales dollars and retail price over the same time in 2007.

Potatoes ranked fourth among the Top 10 vegetables sold at retail for weekly dollar sales, following packaged salads, tomatoes and an other produce” category. Potato products averaged $2,151 a week in sales at each retail location, an increase of more than 10 percent from the same time last year.

In terms of volume, potatoes took the top spot, nearly doubling the volume of the second spot. Retail stores averaged unit sales of more than 3,020 each week, a slight increase over the previous year. Corn, in the second spot at 1,805 units, dropped almost 15 percent from the same time in 2007 but saw the highest price increase.
The average retail price for potato products increased almost 10 percent, to 71 cents. That puts the product near the bottom of the Top 10 list, only beating out corn in average retail price.

Value-added potato products saw great growth after their introduction a few years ago, but the overall value-added market leveled off. However, value-added vegetable side dishes, which include potato products, increased 13 percent in average weekly sales to $366. Volume dropped slightly to 126 units a week, but average retail price was up almost 4 percent, to $2.90 a unit.

While potatoes didn’t make the list of Top 5 organic products, the organic category did show continued growth, according to the study. Organic vegetables averaged more than $1,000 a week in sales, up 22 percent from the same quarter last year. Volume, at 404 units a week, was up 14 percent. The average retail price for organic vegetable products was $3.46, an increase of 8 percent. While the segment did grow, organic vegetables account for less than 6 percent of the total produce market.

More than 13,000 supermarkets were included in the study, but not alternative format stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or club stores. Wal-Mart also was not included.

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