Value-Added Potatoes Offer Convenience

Value-added potatoes should be merchandised with regular potatoes to provide multiple eating options for the consumer.

The versatility of the potato can boost category sales dollars.

Originally printed in the February 2024 issue of Produce Business.

Value-added potato products are getting more play in a marketplace where they satisfy the lifestyle needs of consumers who want to eat healthy but may be strapped for time.

The extent to which value-added potato products can produce flavorful meals is an important element in driving sales. In some cases, consumers may look to the product to provide flavor via the addition of spices or sauces. In others, they may be looking for a prepped product, ready for quick cooking.

“With all the information at our fingertips and with the long history of potatoes, people still search online ‘how to cook potatoes’ an average of 6,600 times per month,” says Rachel Atkinson-Leach, vice president, brand and category excellence, at RPE, Bancroft, WI.

“Consumers love potatoes. It’s still America’s favorite vegetable.”

Stop & Shop is a mainline supermarket that sees the opportunity in value-added potatoes. The company built value-added and bagged minis to its traditional potato merchandising, offering consumers more choices.

Single microwavable russet and sweet potatoes have been in Stop & Shop stores for a long time, according to a spokesperson. However, new value-added items include microwavable mini potatoes, a packaged item that contains potatoes and a seasoning packet. All the customer needs to do is add butter or oil, the seasoning, and microwave. This new offering is certainly a growing segment at Stop & Shop, the spokesperson adds.


For particularly busy consumers, the combination of easy prep, e-commerce, and curbside pickup or delivery may drive demand for convenience products even higher. And consumers are demanding more choices when it comes to price, quality, flavor and convenience — which is also driving innovation.

Amazables are microwave-ready russet potatoes packaged in a film that shrinks while cooking and gives the product a baked consistency that includes a crispy skin. The film, developed by NNZ with headquarters in Groningen, The Netherlands, and Lawrenceville, GA, remains cool to the touch after microwaving, even though the potato is hot and ready to eat.

Amazables are launching as part of the Side Delights product line developed by the Fresh Solutions Network, a group of independent, family-owned farms spanning more than 65,000 acres. The network grows, packs, sells and delivers fresh potatoes and onions to customers across the United States and Canada.

Kathleen Triou, president and chief executive of Fresh Solutions Network, says the company plans an initial showing of the product at the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure show in March.
The film makes the difference with Amazables — “it’s a true innovation,” says Triou.

But Fresh Solutions Network didn’t stop there. It partnered with Lighthouse dressings to create two exclusive dressings that bring out the best characteristics of a baked potato. “The first one is called Loaded, and it’s what you would think you would get in a steakhouse on a loaded baked potato: It’s sour cream, it’s bacon, it’s cheddar cheese, it’s more bacon, with a little bit of scallions in there as well. The other one is a gorgeous buttermilk ranch we mixed with nice tangy buffalo sauce.”

Flexibility is a main consideration in the Amazables formulation, she adds, and the product’s target is both younger and older shoppers.

“It’s the younger Millennials who are cooking for one or two people. This potato can be a main dish, a side dish or a snack because these sauces are shelf stable, so it’s easy to throw in a duffle bag or your desk. Both are gluten-free,” Triou explains. “We’re also excited because it really ticks the box for Boomers who are also one- or two-person households, but their knife skills aren’t as good anymore. They’re looking for something flavorful.”

Consumers are demanding more choices when it comes to price, quality, flavor and convenience — which is also driving innovation.

Amazables will be an addition to a Side Delights line that includes a range of value-added potato products under the potato kits, gourmet potatoes, organic potatoes, convenience potatoes and fresh-cut potatoes categories.

Convenience potatoes include individually wrapped items for microwaves under Bakables, individually foil wrapped for the barbecue under Grillables and 1.5-pound microwavable pouches under Steamables, which come in red, yellow, duo, trio, sweet potato and fingerling varieties.

Fresh-cut potatoes require refrigeration and sell under the name A Cut Above. The line, relatively new to the Side Delights lineup, includes diced, wedge, sliced and steak fry potatoes, and comes in foodservice as well as retail packaging.


RPE, Bancroft, WI, offers various value-added potato products as part of its Tasteful Selections and Farmer’s Promise lineups.

Farmer’s Promise offers Biggins russet potatoes in a microwaveable single and griller single, along with micro and griller tray packs, according to Atkinson-Leach.

“From Tasteful Selections, we offer a variety of fresh, bite-size potato trays that include a seasoning packet. Our latest offering, Potatoes Your Way, uses slightly larger potatoes, which are perfect for simple prep, unlocking multiple cooking styles and recipes. Tasteful Selections also offers micro/steam bags of our potatoes in two varieties. There really is a potato, a prep and a seasoning for all palates.”

The development basis of value-added potatoes is consumer research and the discovery of unmet needs, Atkinson-Leach points out.

“Specifically with flavors, we scour trend reports from reputable sources as we seek out the perfect balance between comfort/traditional/nostalgic flavors, coupled with a bit of a twist or something unexpected. Value-added products have become more important to produce operations in general, but convenience is only part of the equation.”

It’s the combination of freshness and quality that drive product purchase decisions, followed by price, clean formats and nutrition composition, Atkinson-Leach says.

“Value add has a strong place in produce, but where it ranks for purchase decision-making depends on the consumer and the occasion. Consumers are looking for products that fit their lifestyles. A time-starved family on the go, who maybe wants to stay out of the drive-through, is searching out wholesome fresh produce that fits with their schedule.”


Innovation around value-added potatoes isn’t just occurring in the agriculture sector. FOOD Freshly produces shelf-extending products for fresh-cut fruits and vegetables that must be free of genetically modified organisms, sulfites or other allergens.

Benjamin Singh, group technical director at FOOD Fresh North America, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, says the company originated in 1994, working on coatings for fresh-cut potatoes that didn’t use sulfites.

Schools, hospitals and other organizations that are sensitive to health issues have become more interested in healthier alternatives to products they purchase partially prepared, Singh says. Those institutions have been willing to bear the extra cost and have helped open the market for non-sulfite treatments, even if adoption may be slower elsewhere.

RPE’s Tasteful Selections value-added potatoes give shoppers a variety of fresh, bite-sized potatoes, with a seasoning packet, for every palate.

“The market is developing in that direction, but there is still a very big proportion using sulfites,” says Singh.

Yet, value-added potato products are making headway beyond the foodservice sector and into retail, which could represent a catalyst for the newer coatings.


Gordon Nobuto, FOOD Freshly North America director, sales and marketing, says the shakeup caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has fragmented the market in another way: the workplace.

“Now, we have people strictly employed from home, those in hybrid circumstances with time spent in both the office and their household workspaces, and those who are full-time back in the workplace,” observes Nobuto. “In the height of the pandemic, consumers stuck at home had the time to learn cooking skills and prepare meals. The reality today is more complex. So, value-added products can have a role in households where making a big meal from scratch may be appropriate for some occasions, and using time-saving products to eat healthy, may be the way to go in others.

“That’s really changed the whole dynamic of cooking,” says Nobuto.

Fresh Solutions’ Triou says their product line recognizes that shift.

Individually wrapped potatoes give shoppers the convenience of potatoes ready to grill or microwave.

“What we try to do with Side Delights is continue to provide our home cooks with the wholesome nutritiousness that we know that potatoes provide in a convenient manner that also delivers strongly on flavor,” says Triou. “We see the future of the potato category shift in this direction.”

RPE’s Atkinson-Leach maintains the potato business must align with changing consumer preferences while still delivering quality.

“Consumers are preparing their meals at home, using time-saving home appliances such as air fryers and the microwave,” she says. “But it still has to taste good, great even. That’s when simple, value-add additions like a seasoning packet in our trays of fresh potatoes can be a marvel. Each of our seasonings is custom crafted and run through the paces, including our corporate certified research chef.

“We’re looking to create flavors that complement the main dish or the protein.”

“Value-add potatoes should be merchandised with the regular set of potatoes to provide multiple eating options for the consumer,” says Atkinson-Leach. “However, due to the versatility of the potato, this vegetable can boost category sales dollars and volume by as much as 15% when merchandised in a secondary or tertiary location like in the meat department. We’ve seen customers remove value-add potato items only to add them back because they lost category shoppers.”