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Colorado potatoes a welcomed addition to product line

by Lora Abcarian | January 11, 2011
Sales activity has ramped up for RPE, a second-generation potato and onion grower-shipper owned by the Wysocki Family of Companies in Bancroft, WI. The company markets potatoes grown in Colorado's San Luis Valley by Hi- Land Potato Co. and Metz Potato Co.

RPE Vice President of Marketing Randy Shell said that the addition of Colorado growers to its producer lineup has been beneficial. RPE is a year-round supplier of russets, also working with growers in Wisconsin and Idaho. The company has offices in Minnesota, Illinois and Georgia.

Colorado operations are spearheaded by Sales Manager Shannon Casey, a potato industry veteran with longstanding ties to Hi-Land. Mr. Casey’s wife, Shawna, is customer support manager. She also has ties to Hi-Land. Salesman Darrin White is a longtime member of the San Luis Valley potato industry.

Mr. Shell was asked how the Colorado potato crop progressed during the growing season.

"The growing season was absolutely perfect for us this year," he told The Produce News Jan. 12. “We had just the right amount of precipitation for our growing season, producing a great overall crop. The weather worked in our favor to produce a great crop this year.”

The sheds grow several russet varieties including Canela, Classic, Rio Grande, Norkotah and Mesa. According to Mr. Shell, Latona yellows and a limited supply of Durango reds are available from Hi-Land.

“Carl Worley, owner of Hi Land, stated that this may be the best quality crop he has seen in 50-plus years of growing potatoes,” Mr. Shell said. “We are able to run fewer potatoes this year to get the same amount of packages out the door due to our overall great quality. We are packing around 750,000 hundredweight of great quality potatoes from the valley this year.”

RPE packs its potatoes under the “Naturally Nutritious,” “Mr. Tasty,” “Colorado Sunrise” and “Biggins” labels. “We also pack many private-label brands for our customer base,” Mr. Shell noted. “Everything we pack is conventional. But we do work with some organic growers to supply organics to our customers.”

The company markets to retail and foodservice customers, packing to customer specification. “We are a customer-driven and solution-oriented company,” Mr. Shell commented. “We are a true category partner with our customers to supply them with their total potato needs.”

Customers are able to take advantage of a variety of packing options.

“In large retail packs, we have five-, eight-, 10-, 15- and 20-pound bags available,” he said. “We also have a range of cartons from 30 to 50 pounds in every size option. We continue to expand our specialty categories in two-, three- and four-pound bags as this segment continues to show good growth.”

RPE markets potatoes domestically throughout the United States. “Some of our key marketing areas are the Midwest, Texas and the entire Southeast,” Mr. Shell stated. “We continue to expand our sales area across the U.S. and Mexico.”

Shannon and Shawna Casey’s first child, Abigail Mae Casey, was born Dec. 21, 2010. “Shannon stated that when she grows up, she will have no part of this crazy potato business,” Mr. Shell laughed.