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The National Potato Council held their first ever virtual event this week. There’s been remarkable changes in the food system over the last few months because of COVID-19. That’s led to a lot of adjustments to the potato industry.
Despite the disruptions and fluctuations, potatoes remain the top veggie choice both at and away from home.
“The versatility, the commonality and the nutritional benefits of the potato further solidified our position with consumers—many of whom cooked their first potatoes at home over the past 90 days,” said Blair Richardson, CEO of Potatoes USA. “
He said that retail sales of potatoes are up nearly 2 percent as new consumers are purchasing potatoes in many shapes and forms: fresh, frozen, dehydrated, and chips.
“Across the board, potatoes have been an amazing success for retailers in every market,” said Richardson.
These highlights are not enough to erase the damages done to the potatoes by the sudden disruption and closures of the food service industry.
“With 58 percent of all potatoes sold through food service pre-COVID-19, it was not surprising we were vulnerable to this type of disruption,” said Richardson. “However, the data we have seen indicate that the power of potatoes was not missed by food service operators who adjusted to pick up and delivery services.”
Richardson said that many quick-serve and fast food restaurants didn’t see significant decreases in sales. Some restaurant workers might not return to their jobs as the industry reopens, which could lead to simplified menus and higher profit options. He mentioned both options should benefit the potato industry.
“In preparation of this possibility, Potatoes USA amplified our efforts to create new, simple potato recipes for both at-home consumers and multiple restaurant formats,” he said. “Chef RJ Harvey and our entire marketing team have developed over 100 new recipes for consumers and food service operators and are already working to implement these recipes and their variations.”
Despite these hardships that COVID has presented, Richardson is still bullish for the potato industry.
“One opportunity lies in the healthy nutrients natural to potatoes such as Vitamin C, potassium and protein,” he said. “As consumers look to their food choices to enhance their immunity, potatoes are an obvious choice.”
He added that the versatility of potatoes will also provide an opportunity to build connections people desire.
“With two of every three consumers reporting they plan on spending more quality time with family in the future, and half of all consumers stating they want to connect more closely with friends, we expect a significant aspect o this interaction will take place during meals and other eating activities,” said Richardson. “This is an important time in our history as an industry, and an exciting opportunity for the potato to become even more entrenched as America’s favorite vegetable.”