Randy Shell, vice president of marketing and new business development for RPE, said the 2012 potato marketing season has been full of excitement. “We are anticipating an approximate 15- to 20-percent increase in volume over 2011,” he told The Produce News on Jan. 4. “It looks to be a very good year for product volume when compared to the last two years. Product quality is looking excellent with a good mix of sizes, including good supplies of large russet potatoes. We expect good volume of all potato varieties for the remainder of the season, although this could change as the season progresses.”
The company, headquartered in Bancroft, WI, was founded by the Wysocki family. Today, RPE has 50 years of experience growing and marketing quality potatoes and onions. Mr. Shell said the company has consistently built strong business partnerships to solidify its industry reputation.
“We grow many of our own potatoes and also market potatoes for other growers, which could include all or part of their crop,” he stated. “Our primary network includes Idaho, Wisconsin, Colorado and California. But we also work with growers in all major growing areas in the United States.”
RPE grows and markets all potato varieties — including russets, reds, yellows and fingerling potatoes — to its customers in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The company’s primary brands are “Biggins” and “Tasteful Selections.” Private label is also available at customer request.
Innovation is a hallmark at RPE, and last October the company launched its newest branded product line, “Old Oak Farms,” at the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit. “We will have over 25 SKUs available to our customers by Spring 2013,” Mr. Shell said. “Old Oak Farms” serves as our core commodity brand and encompasses all standard varieties of potatoes and onions. The packaging is designed to help the consumer make purchase decisions by providing color coding that distinguishes sizing and varietal differences while also conveying flavor and usage information.”
The brand also focuses on the farmers who grow RPE’s produce. “Each bag has a photo and a quote from one of the key people involved in producing that specific variety,” he commented. “The stories help make the connection between the consumer and farmer, and bring the passion of the growers behind the brand to light.”
RPE also introduced microwaveable packs into its ‘Tasteful Selections” line of specialty baby potatoes. “The two SKUs are available in 16-ounce packages and include different varieties: Ruby Sensation and our signature variety, Honey Gold,” he went on to say. “The microwave packages have potato sizing that is so uniform that the potatoes’ diameters only vary by five millimeters, resulting in even cooking and faster cook times for the consumer.” The packages, he said, cook in a quick six minutes.
The company actively looks for ways to improve production. “We are continuing to be on the cutting edge of technology within our farming and packaging operations. We are always upgrading our packaging facilities with the most up-to-date equipment,” Mr. Shell stated. “We recently updated and expanded our quality assurance test facility within our Wisconsin packaging facility and are enjoying the benefits of a newly upgraded packaging facility at our RPE-Colorado location.”
All packing facilities owned by RPE are Primus GFS-level certified, and the company also maintains customer-specific certifications.
“We have an outstanding quality assurance team who works with our growing partners for which we provide marketing services and assist them in the maintenance and development of their food-safety programs to ensure their certifications are maintained accordingly,” he noted.