Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC in Idaho Falls, ID, is, according to the company’s web site, “the exclusive marketer of Wada Farms & Dole fresh potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes in North America with products available from every major growing region in the country. We also offer industry-leading retail category management analysis and support through our partner company Category Partners LLC.”
The marketing group “markets over 30,000 acres of prime potato production in eastern Idaho,” handling the volume from Wada Farms and a network of co-packers in Idaho, as well as a national co-packer network, “to supply the freshest potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes throughout the year,” the web site states.
Although russet potato varieties, specifically Norkotahs and Burbanks, account for the preponderance of Wada’s Idaho potato offerings, Kevin Stanger, vice president of sales and marketing for Wada Farms Marketing Group and a partner in the company, told The Produce News Aug. 25, “We have always done some specialty products in the sense of varieties.” But the company has been expanding recently in that regard. In turn, “We are expanding our red and yellow [potato] packing capability a little bit on that aspect. We are upgrading and revamping our production and equipment in that area.”
Wada also will be “coming out with some new products this fall,” Mr. Stanger said. He was not yet ready to make any announcements about what those new products may be, but he did acknowledge that it “may” include “some new retail things.”
As for the russet varieties, Mr. Stanger observed that quality looks good on early test digs, but sizes appear to be running smaller than normal and yields appear to be “off a little bit.” But as most of the potatoes still had a little time before harvest, “we are still hoping that we can get some size to them.”
One of Wada’s packinghouses had already started to run new-crop Norkotahs, and “our big shed is starting tomorrow,” he said. But some Norkotah growers were still holding off, hoping that the potatoes would grow a little more.
The Burbank harvest was still a ways off. “You will see some Burbanks starting to be dug in the state of Idaho as you get into the second and third week of September,” he said. But again, some growers were holding off, “hoping that these next few weeks would add a little [size] to them.”
Wada will not pack field-run Burbanks and will not start packing Burbanks until “after the sweat,” referring to a curing process that toughens the skins and improves the shelf life of the potatoes. So the Burbank packing will not start until sometime in October, he said.
Russet acreage for Wada is similar to past years. “Acreage for us moves slightly up or down just based on rotation,” Mr. Stanger said. “But overall, it pretty well stays the same” from one season to the next.
Wada Farms is and has always been “at the forefront” of such issues as quality control, food safety and sustainability, Mr. Stanger said. “In the sense of innovation and technology,” the company has “always tried to be” a leader in those areas.
Albert Wada, Wada Farms’ chief executive officer and chairman of the marketing group, “takes great pride in doing things first class, first rate,” not only providing “the best product” but also “providing great service to the customers” and “being very aware and responsive to their needs in the sense of food safety, sustainability and those kinds of issues,” he said.
The company is also constantly innovative with its retail packing, with such products as “our Easy Steamers and our Grillers” and microwave-ready products, he said. As for service in the category-management area, “with our access to Category Partners” and their data analysis capability, “I don’t think anyone in the industry can match” that service.