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Specialty Potato Alliance debuts new packaging, integrating new varieties

by Joel Gebet | April 19, 2010
As the Specialty Potato Alliance approaches its first anniversary of operation, the organization continues to see sales increases for its retail and foodservice fingerling and specialty potato lines, and has recently introduced a new packaging option for its family of products, which are available nationwide.

Mark Pittenger, vice president of sales and marketing for the alliance, told The Produce News April 7 that "we are integrating our two new proprietary varieties, the Red Rebel and the Rockey Rose, more and more into our lineup."

He noted that the Rockey Rose, its newest offering, was named by suggestions made during a contest held at the alliance's booth at the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit trade show last October. The first portion of the name comes from Rockey Farms LLC, the grower that developed the variety, and which is one of the alliance's two major growers. "The Rockey Rose works really well in our mix," he said, adding that the spud "has a creamy nuttiness, it is like nothing I've ever had before."

He said that the alliance is "aggressively pursuing new varieties and packaging to complement the three and four potato mixes that SPA currently provides" to its clients, who can choose from numerous packaging and label options, including private labels.

Its newest packaging option is a 1.5-pound Vexar bag with a plastic front that limits ultraviolet rays that protects the potatoes from discoloration, said Jill Overdorf, a managing team member of the alliance.

"This is a full extension of our branding," Ms. Overdorf told The Produce News April 7. "They are progressive looking bags, [and their addition] is really exciting as we now offer three distinct [packaging] options for our clients, depending on their preferences and price points."

In addition to the 1.5-pound bags, which are also available in paper, the alliance offers 10-, 20- and 50-pound boxes. Ms. Overdorf said that the alliance is targeting foodservice vendors with the 10- and 20-pound boxes, while the 50-pound boxes are "good for large catering operations like resorts or cruise ships."

Mr. Pittenger said that the alliance was "really pleased that we are getting to the point where we have year-round supply. Our two main growers, in Colorado and Bakersfield, CA, cover us with three crops throughout the year and that enables us to work seamlessly."

One of those growers, Sheldon Rockey, the third generation of the Rockey family to farm in Colorado's San Luis Valley, told The Produce News April 7 that Rockey Farms had just finished up its season, which normally runs from September to May, and was starting to plant next year's crop.

"I'm planting 200 acres of fingerlings, including Banana, French, Ruby Crescent, Red Rebel" and of course the Rockey Rose, Mr. Rockey said, noting that he has been growing the gourmet spuds for the past 12 years.

Said Ms. Overdorf, "We are proud that our growers have been able to introduce new varieties, and we are currently exploring options and are hoping to branch out to a marble size and fingerling sweet potatoes. The alliance is interested in extending our umbrella over anything that is a specialty potato."