Wada Farms Potatoes Inc. in Pingree, ID, whose potatoes are marketed by Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC in Idaho Falls, ID, has been historically known primarily as a russet potato grower and shipper. However, lately the company has been increasing its production of an assortment of non-russet potato varieties such as reds, yellows and mini-potatoes.
Wada Farms Marketing also markets potatoes exclusively for several other packingshed around the state.
“In recent years, we started developing a varietal program for reds and golds and various smaller round varieties,” said Chris Wada, director of marketing for Wada Farms Marketing, said in an interview with The Produce News.
This year, the company has taken steps to “increase our focus” on the various non-russet varietals now being grown in Idaho, he said, acknowledging that in retrospect it “may not be the ideal timing” due to the current distressed state of the red potato market.
One major component of that focus is the installation of a new packingline specifically for red and other colored potatoes, complete with “all the bells and whistles in terms of sizers, graders, sorters and so on and so forth,” he said. “We are nearing completion” of that project, and the new “red line” will go on line “any day now.”
The new packingline is located in the company’s main packing plant in Pingree, which Mr. Wada referred to as the company’s “flagship” facility. It will “definitely improve the production capability” for colored potatoes and refine the sizing, he said. It is “definitely going to create an even tighter pack.”
Wada Farms is introducing this year a new line of consumer packs for mini-sized specialty potatoes.
For several years, “we have really tried to get out and attempt to build our value-added convenience products,” Mr. Wada said. “That line has been established, and we have been offering these products for a number of years.” Among them are the “Easy-Baker” with individual potatoes sealed in a microwave-ready plastic wrap, and the “Microwave in Bag” line with russet, red or yellow potatoes in microwave-ready steam bags.
Facilitated by the capabilities of the new colored potato line, “we are working on some new products to bring out here shortly” that extend “the value-added convenience product focus that we have,” he said. “With the increased focus on mini-potatoes, we are coming out with a different label branded look to target that market.”
The unique aspect of the new line will be its focus on mini-potatoes as a fun food with appeal to kids, he explained. Currently, what one sees in the market for the specialty potatoes “is really focused on” the gourmet and foodie market. Wada’s new approach “would be more focused on kids and the eating characteristics of a bite-sized potato.” Informal focus groups indicate that “kids seem to really gravitate towards the smaller potato line.”
The new packs will contain petite C-sized potatoes in 1.5 pound bags carrying the “Wada Farms” label but with names identifying the variety or mix, such as “Mini Reds,” “Mini Golds” or “Mini Medley,” and the trade-marked slogan, “Fun Bite-Size Potatoes.”