Total retail potato sales in the October-December quarter dropped 6.7% in volume but rose 3.5% in dollar value from a year earlier, according to Potatoes USA.

The higher revenue was because of a 10.9% average price increase, which was five times higher than those of the previous two years, the marketing group said. Volume was higher than that of 2019.

COVID-19 shutdowns kept more people at home during much of 2020, when retail demand for potatoes surged. 

But now, “people are getting out a little more,” said Kayla Dome, retail global marketing manager at Potatoes USA. “They are going to restaurants more and not cooking quite as much.”

Retail sales remain above those of 2019.

Dome said people continued to cook at home last year, but less than in 2020.

The 5-pound package remains most popular, but fresh-potato packages of 1-4 pounds notched higher percentage increases in sales recently, she said.

Packages of seasoned potatoes also are popular.

“Consumers are kind of buying potatoes that take a step away when they are at home cooking,” Dome said. Buyers in this way “get help with meal prep.”

Retail sales of frozen and deli-side potatoes are higher.

Dome said fresh-potato buyers added frozen products to their shopping lists during the 2020 surge and have “kept coming back and buying” since, she said.

Frozen and deli-side sales are helped as people spend less time at home, she said.

Retail chip sales are down in year-to-year volume but above pre-pandemic levels, partly because working and preparing lunch at home remain popular, she said.

“Their price has gone up more than all the other categories, so we see inflation a bit more,” Dome said. That likely contributed to year-to-year volume drop.

Potatoes USA said that while all retail categories fell in volume sales, chips, driven by the highest year-to-year increase in price, saw the highest rise in dollar sales: 8.3%.

Dollar sales increased by 1.4% for frozen potatoes and by 6.2% for deli-prepared sides as consumers supplemented cooking at home. In October, dollar sales started increasing by double-digit percentages.

Retail sales of fresh potatoes dropped by 8.7% in volume. Russets, the largest segment, fell by 11.2% in volume and were down 2.7% in dollars.

Red potatoes, the second biggest category, fell by 7.3% in volume and dropped by 2.9% in dollars.

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