In the Trenches: Make Gross Profits with Idaho Potatoes


After spending five years as a product manager in the trenches and two years on the road as a district merchandiser, I was promoted to the purchasing office as a junior buyer.

With only a few months of a few basic shopping methods, I wasn’t really well trained to take on important shopping tasks. Then one day out of the blue, the head buyer assigned me to the potatoes and onions category. I suddenly found myself taking on the responsibility of delivering daily potato and onion orders to 140 stores.

Having only been in the purchasing position for less than four months, I doubted my ability to buy potatoes and onions. After all, I knew how to order potatoes and onions for my department as a product manager, but I never bought full trucks for 140 stores.

One day, I finally had enough nerve to tell my boss that I didn’t have enough knowledge in myself to take on such a responsibility. I admitted that markets, product conditions and prices were things I knew very little about.

My boss turned to me and said, “My son, if you want to know all about potatoes, talk to the guy who sells potatoes in the market. No one knows potatoes better than he does. Now to work. This is how I quickly learned to buy potatoes.

That’s right, potatoes are an important category. They offer maximum sales volume to the overall profit mix for the products. If aggressively promoted and marketed, potatoes can put production budgets on top. The key word is aggressive. A small, conservative display will move very little product.

There are many varieties of potatoes – Russets, round white, red, golden, purple, fingerling and the little greedy. They all make a good mix on display racks, but like any category, whether it’s tomatoes, peppers, oranges or apples, consumer-bought favorites drive the most sales. These most popular sellers are the ones where the word aggressive comes into play.

The first and most essential activity is to line up sufficient quantities of potatoes with shippers. Ultimately, you have to estimate the quantities needed and organize the orders with the shippers to deliver the product on time.

Kent Beesley, Western United States and Canada Promotion Director for the Idaho Potato Commission, said, “Idaho has become a huge destination for potato needs. . The russet, red, golden, gourmet, and organic potatoes can be loaded onto a truck from Idaho. Idaho is also the largest volume supplier to the United States for gold bearing potatoes. With the huge demand for trucks right now, this gives retailers one stop shopping for the potato category. It also gives retailers the advantage of having more freshness towers in distribution centers.

The most important job of a product buyer is to be aware of all marketing information before placing orders. It is extremely important to know everything about the potato category, especially the sales volume by variety.

What is the percentage of sales share in the potato category? Which variety is most in demand? It is imperative to know which variety of potato is the most preferred, and no one knows it better than the consumer. Their favorite is the Russet potato which makes up almost half of the entire potato category. Reds make up about 20%, yellows a little less than that, followed by gourmet and petite varieties.

So which potato will you be promoting the most? Statistics don’t lie. The Idaho Russet variety is the most requested by the majority of buyers. The five and 10 pound bags are still the most sought after, as well as the bulk count. These are the main drivers of the potato category generating sales and profit.

Buyers who buy Idaho potatoes spend an average of $ 85 per trip, compared to $ 43 when the potatoes are not purchased. Mainly, when consumers buy potatoes, they are shopping for other grocery products such as meat, other vegetables, condiments, desserts, etc. for a full meal.

With all the facts on what consumers want and buy the most, it makes more sense to promote the five and ten pound Idaho bags, as well as the Bulk Russets.

Here are four easy ways to get great results:

  • Know your potato market. Talk to the potato guy in the terminal market.
  • Line up orders with your senders. Get the trucks.
  • Expand the five and 10 pound potato sections in your stores. Be “aggressive”.
  • Promote the Idaho Russets in your weekly advertising flyer. Do it regularly.

Is Your Boss Pushing You On Gross Profit? I was here. I know that with rising product costs, record high shipping costs, scarcity of trucks, and hurdles to hiring employees, you still have to stick to tough gross margin budgets. This is why being aggressive in expanding and promoting Idaho potatoes can increase that profit.

I welcome photos of your displays to share with others in the fruit and vegetable industry. Send them to me at [email protected]

Ron Pelger is the owner of RonProCon, a consulting company for the fruit and vegetable industry. He is also the Director of Merchandising for the Product Industry and a Freelance Writer. He can be reached at 775-843-2394 or by email at [email protected]


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