Spud retailers urged to tout more types
Study: Consumers will buy more potatoes if they buy a variety
By JOHN O'CONNELL
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -- Potandon Produce representatives have been making the case to retailers since the start of the new year that promoting an array of fresh potato types may lead to increased sales storewide.
Potandon, North America's largest potato marketer, has based the new campaign on a recent study funded by the U.S. Potato Board. Barbara Keckler, Potandon's marketing supervisor, said retailers have been receptive, and she's eager to see how the information may lead to changes in potato displays.
"The essence of the study is the more types of potatoes that a consumer buys, the more potatoes they will actually buy, and the more dollars will go per year into that retailer," Keckler said.
Don Ladhoff, who oversees USPB's retail programs, said the study confirms a 2010 survey by USPB's research agency, Sterling Rice Group, concluding that rather than substituting, households tend to add on to typical spud purchases when they try new types. The new study utilized a database of 31 million U.S. households with customer loyalty cards managed by Spire, a partner of Nielsen Perishables Group.
The results show 83 percent of U.S. households buy fresh potatoes, but 38 percent of them buy just one type throughout the year. Another 35 percent buy two types. About 1 percent buy four or more types in a year. Furthermore, customers using four or more types buy 59 pounds per year, compared with 14 pounds by shoppers who purchase just one type.
"There's a lot of upside here. Virtually three out of four shoppers could be buying a third type of potato or a fourth type of potato," Ladhoff said.
Storewide, the study suggests households that purchase a single type spend $2,335 annually on groceries, compared with $5,172 by households that buy four or more types. Ladhoff said the average retailer already carries six spud types. He hopes the study will convince them to run promotions, discounts and advertising to increase sales. Most shippers have told Ladhoff they're also using the data.
"The response (among retailers) has been enthusiastic. They have bought into it 100 percent, and they are looking for the industry to help them introduce people to additional types," Ladhoff said.
Seth Pemsler, the Idaho Potato Commission's retail/international vice president, said his organization has also included the data in its presentations for retailers. He likens the study to another "arrow in the quiver."
"It's one more tool. No retailer is going to look at any one piece of research at face value," Pemsler said. "Should Potandon use it? Absolutely."
To further evidence the shopping trend, USPB will partner on another study with Brookshire Grocery in Texas, also using Spire loyalty card data. Ladhoff said USPB has identified "potentially strong potato eating households" that buy a single spud variety. In a few weeks, USPB will send them an offer for a free 5-pound bag of Russets if they buy a 5-pound bag of reds or yellows and track their shopping behavior for the rest of the year to see if they increase purchases of both potatoes and groceries in general.