July 2021 Highlights
Hello everyone! Welcome to today’s episode of Potato-cast. A Potatoes USA podcast full of your favorite potato industry content.
I’m Natalia Cervantes, Potatoes USA Conversation Architect, and your host.
Before I get into this episode, if you have not had the chance to listen to our last episode, I highly recommend you do. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jaren Raybould, Potatoes USA Board Chairman. He shared his insights and vision for the industry. I really enjoyed hearing his perspective, and I think you, our listeners, would as well.
Now, for today’s episode, I will give a brief recap of the summer meeting, a brief retail update, share some analytics from the consumer website (potatogoodness.com) and our industry website, recipe research and its impact on culinary development, some recent wins in potato nutrition, team potato update, potatoes in the middle east and recipes around the globe.
So, let’s get into it!
The summer administrative committee meeting last month in Louisville, Kentucky, was fantastic. It was the first in-person gathering in over a year, and the emotions were high. Over three days, Potatoes USA staff provided an update on the current market, summary results from the previous year, and the upcoming marketing plans. Despite everything that happened over the last year, potatoes are still America’s Favorite Vegetable, and the #1 side dish and takeout item. Potatoes are also the #1 vegetable item sold at Retail, and potatoes are on 84% of menus, a 1 % increase from the previous year.
John Lundeen, research director, shared with the committee that the National Chip Program reviewed and approved a seed disposition strategy where surplus seed will be given back to the breeders. And The National Fry Processors Trial steering committee is receiving proposals to look at starch in potatoes and its relationship to the sensory qualities in that candidate, ultimately trying to answer the question of “What makes the best fry?”
The presentations wrapped up with an update from Monica Heath, vice president of finance and policy. She reported that Potatoes USA is in excellent financial standing.
There were ten motions total that the administrative committee voted on and approved. I will list the ten motions on this episode’s page.
Motions to list on page:
- Utilize reserve funds to implement a marketing program targeted at foodservice distributors.
- Utilize reserve funds to accelerate the impact of the carbohydrate quality work at the health practitioner level.
- Send the National Chip Program’s (NCP) disposition strategy to the USDA for approval.
- The disposition strategy states that the NCP will no longer sell seed from unsuccessful candidates. Seed for successful candidates will fully be utilized to conduct additional trial research.
- Utilize reserve funds to evaluate current germplasm for protein content of chipping potatoes and initiate a breeding strategy that includes higher protein potato options. The long-term goal would allow processors to produce potato chips with a higher protein content, as well as create opportunities for more efficient extraction of protein for the plant-based food market.
- Utilize reserve funds to work with other potato organizations in the EU and elsewhere to develop global responses to issues that could reduce demand for potatoes.
- Utilize reserve funds to educate the U.S. industry about the requirements for shipping fresh potatoes to Mexico.
- Utilize reserve funds to develop a new international B2B website to replace the current USApotatoes.com website.
- Approve the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Amendment #1.
- Updated employee travel policies with updates on using house rentals and car share services.
- Open a bank account in China to abide by the People’s Republic of China’s Law on the management of the activities of overseas NGOs within mainland China.
Blair Richardson, CEO and President, concluded the presentations by thanking the Board for their input and participation and shared a positive message for the industry. Richardson reflected on the current demand for potatoes domestically, the growth in international markets and all the effort put into spreading the nutritional message that’s ultimately changing the conversations around potatoes.
I’d like to include one more big thank you to all who participated in the summer meeting both in-person and virtually.
When it comes to potatoes at retail, from July 2020 – June 2021, potato sales increased in dollars by 3% but declined slightly in volume by 0.3% compared to the previous July-June marketing year. Refrigerated potatoes had the largest increase of 10.6% in dollars and 5.3% increase in volume compared to the same period the previous year. Frozen potatoes kept a strong hold on sales, with dollar and volume sales increasing by 6.3% and 4.6%, respectively, even with an increase in overall average pricing. The two largest volume driving categories, chips and fresh potatoes, increased in dollar sales but both fell in volume by 1.8%. To get into the nitty-gritty of these numbers, make sure the download the retail sales handouts on this episode’s page.
Now, let’s look at some analytics for our industry website, potatoesusa.com. Launched in March 2020 with a new re-design, the website has seen a lot of traffic, in fact, it’s had almost 21K users in the last marketing year. The website is popular among industry members because it has valuable and useful content such as industry news, research materials, resources and marketing tools and also houses content such as this podcast or the keeping it current video series.
The other website I refer to sometimes is potatogoodness.com, the Board’s consumer focused website. This consumer website currently ranks #1 or #2 (it fluctuates) on Google for the following organic search terms- potato nutrition, history of potatoes and types of potatoes.
Potatogoodness.com also houses all of the delicious and wonderful culinary creations from Chef RJ Harvey, nutrition influencers and other recipe submission. And to make the recipes section on the website easier to use, Potatoes USA conducted some recipe research to determine guidelines for providing consumers with recipe content. The research study surveyed consumers who use recipes monthly or more, age 25-54. And the sample size was ethnically balanced to US Census. The questions were designed to learn what consumers are looking for in a recipe, what are their barriers when it comes to preparation, where or how do they find recipes, and how relevant is cooking experience. We will be producing a Keeping It Current video to share the full survey results within the next month.
Now, time for some potatoes in the media.
Better Homes and Gardens shared an article with tips on freezing mashed potatoes. The article received a lot of engagement and was also pushed out by Potatoes USA on social media. Eat This Not That published a list of Popular Foods with More Fiber Than Oatmeal and potatoes were #7. Eat This Not That stated “One medium-sized potato contains 5 whopping grams of fiber and even has more potassium than a banana. Plus, they give you a major boost of nutrients and antioxidants that help ward off the free radicals in your body”. This was a great potato call out. In addition, a study was recently published on the benefits of eating potatoes for adolescents. The study was conducted among nine 18-year olds and says quote “eating potatoes can be an effective strategy to modestly improve intake of key shortfall nutrients.”
I mentioned this before, but September is National Fruits and Veggie Month, as well as National Potato Month! In partnership with PBH, Potatoes USA is promoting consumption of more veggies like the nutrient-dense potato! Several social media posts for consumer, nutrition, foodservice and school foodservice have been developed to help spread the word. And I want everyone in the industry to take part in this as well. There are several potato-forward recipes that I encourage everyone to promote in September, such as the Potato Veggie Burger, or the Breakfast Potato Hash. I’ll include the links in this episode’s page.
And this brings me to our international update. First, let’s talk about Team Potato South Korea. Team Potato in South Korea is quickly growing and maybe even starting to outgrow the U.S. team. In a recent virtual challenge Team Potato South Korean gained 150 new members. The challenge included a run, sharing recipes on social made with U.S. potatoes, and sharing workout activities. Overall, there were over 200 posts on social media all celebrating the love for U.S. potatoes. What does this mean for Team Potato USA? It means we need to step it up for the Labor Day event.
Since 2019, Potatoes USA has been conducting foundational activities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to create a new outlet for U.S. fresh, frozen, and dehydrated potato exports. The key factor contributing to the lack of U.S. potato recognition in these markets is the absence of a major U.S. supplier representation in the market. However, we recently found out that a major U.S. supplier of frozen potatoes confirmed they would be shipping a full container of U.S. frozen potato products, which is fantastic!
Some of the activities that help strengthen the supply chain in the region for U.S. potatoes are the Virtual Trade Mission that connected U.S. exporters with potential buyers, and the U.S. potato industry’s presence at the Gulfood trade show in Dubai, UAE.
In the Chinese market, work is being done to help introduce potential Chinese customers to U.S. chip-stock and develop key contacts in the market. To do this, Potatoes USA exhibited at the Food Ingredients China (FIC) trade show in Shanghai to introduce fresh U.S. chipping potatoes. The U.S. potato booth educated visitors about U.S. chip-stock varieties and the benefits of manufacturing products with U.S. chipping potatoes. Additionally, the booth featured bold imagery from the industry’s new Buy U.S. campaign and a variety of chip products made from U.S. potatoes to show the wide range of what U.S. chip-stock can produce.
Six U.S. frozen potato products were launched and promoted in top volume retail chains in China to build consumer awareness of U.S. high-quality fry products and drive new sales. One targeted chain was 7Fresh, a subsidiary of Chinese retail giant J.D. With support from Potatoes USA through merchandizing visits, month-long special product displays, and point-of-purchase materials, 7Fresh has added U.S. 1/4 fries, U.S. round hash browns, and U.S. potato balls. The continued presence of these items on this large and fast-growing distribution channel significantly increases U.S. product exposure. Merchandizing visits and month-long promotions also helped Hema, an online-to-offline platform of Alibaba, China’s largest online commerce company, launch two types of U.S. fries and round hash brown in Hema Nanjing offline stores. The U.S. round hash brown had a special promotion where customers could apply for free samples using the Hema app. The specially promoted product, round hash browns, gained a significant volume increase and generated substantial interest in this product, with 30,000 people submitting applications for free samples.
And if you’re wondering how U.S. potatoes are doing on international menus, then keep listening.
Malaysia conducted a U.S. fries Bonanza, that’s right, a U.S. fries Bonanza, which was a tie-in promotion that involved 13 different restaurants and cafes. All 13 places featured U.S. potatoes on their menus with a focus on takeout and delivery. As all parts of the world continue to experience different outcomes from the pandemic, this promotion was timely as Malaysia entered another phase of lockdown.
In China, Champion Pizza, a 1,015-outlet chain, promoted new U.S. potato pizza and fry dishes on their menus. This promotion showed the strong potential potatoes have at pizza operations as the average sales increase of the potato dishes was over 420% compared to the period before the promotion.
This has been a longer international update than usual, but there has been a lot of global activity recently around U.S. potatoes. And with the increase in activity, U.S. potato exports increased by 4% in volume and 1% in value from July 2020 – June 2021, when compared to the previous marketing year. The rebound in exports was led by a 9% increase in fresh potatoes, a 10% increase in potato chips, and a 2% increase in frozen exports, accounting for 51% of the total. John Toaspern just did a Keeping It Current update on exports so make sure to give it a listen.
And make sure you check out the latest episode of Keeping It Current which features Jared Smith of Blanca, Colorado. Jared shares what being a Potatoes USA board member means to him and his perspective on the Summer Meeting in Louisville.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Potato-cast! Please subscribe on Spotify, Apple, or Google Podcast by searching for Potato-cast.
All supporting documents for data provided in this episode can be found on potatoesusa.com. To see all the great information available about potatoes or new and fun ways to cook with potatoes, visit potatogoodness.com.
I am your host, Natalia Cervantes.
Until next time, take care everyone