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Culinary Specialty Produce riding popularity of new spud varieties

Several new potato varieties being offered by Culinary Specialty Produce have received strong feedback and currently are among the more popular items in the company’s lineup.

Richard Leibowitz, general manager of the Mountainside, NJ-based company, said that the firm’s proprietary Rockey Rose, Merlot and Red Rebel varieties have garnered strong response from consumers due to their excellent flavor.

“Rockey Rose is at the top of the list,” said Mr. Leibowitz. “It is simply the finest and most flavorful fingerling potato we have ever tasted. The Merlot is a purple fingerling variety, but it stays purple when it cooks and doesn’t turn white. It is also a very tasty potato. The Red Rebel offers an alternative to a French fingerling, but it has a much cleaner skin and a very smooth flavor.”

“Sales are strong and steady, and people are loving the flavors of our new varieties,” added Mark Pittenger, sales manager for Culinary Specialty Produce. “And people are starting to request the potatoes by name, especially the Rockey Rose, which is what we are looking for. It’s all about the flavor. In fact, I am so confident in the Rockey Rose that I would put it up there above the Russian Banana variety, and it will get even better as time goes by when we have more experience growing it.”

According to Mr. Leibowitz, these new varieties are available in both organic and conventional versions and are packed in special bags that restrict ultra-violet rays that can turn potatoes green. The high-color bags also display the potatoes effectively. And the organic packaging is “Canada-ready,” he said, with French-language verbiage included on the label.

Additionally, the firm is offering La Rouge fingerlings and Golden fingerlings, which are larger fingerling varieties in the red and yellow categories.

According to Mr. Leibowitz, these larger varieties are good for rotisseries, roasts, casseroles and any hearty winter dish, since they typically will be cut into thirds.

“You want to use a cut potato for these types of dishes because they absorb the juices from roasts for an amazing flavor,” he said.

Mr. Leibowitz said that while the larger varieties are geared more toward the foodservice trade, they are priced to appeal to retail as well.

“The [smaller varieties] are a little more gourmet, but I think they all have a mass appeal,” he said. “They are all very versatile, and anything you do with a regular potato will be improved by using a fingerling.”

The company offers the fingerlings in a 5-pound bag for retail and 10-, 20- or 50-pound bags for foodservice. The smaller varieties are marketed under the “Specialty Potato Alliance” brand, while the jumbo varieties carry the “Culinary Harvest” brand. Culinary Specialty Produce was a founding member of the Specialty Potato Alliance when it was formed four years ago.

While potatoes are a big part of the business at Culinary Specialty Produce, Mr. Leibowitz stressed that the company is much more than a potato distributor. It is a full-service specialty produce company that offers citrus, herbs, baby vegetables, asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, baby lettuces, endive, mesclun, arugula, spinach, melons and tropical fruits.

Additionally, it can consolidate and ship multiple items, and offers f.o.b. delivery from both coasts and the Midwest, and next-day delivery from Los Angeles and Pennsylvania.