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Potatoes see surging demand

Quarantined consumers’ demand for potatoes is at an all-time high.

“We don’t even see demand like this during the holidays,” said Ross Johnson, International Marketing Director for the Idaho Potato Commission BB #:162339.

“We are finding it difficult to find potatoes in any store across the country. Shippers are talking of constant phone calls looking for potatoes. Mainly because we know how to plan for holiday sales spikes, but with the potato shortage, we have had difficulty keeping up with orders. Shippers are doing all they can to placate our hungry consumers.”

According to USDA, prices are $20 per 50-pound carton of Idaho russets size 40-70 in mid-March, up from $12-15 at the same time last year.

With so many consumers confined to their homes during the COVID-19 crisis and restaurant dining room closed in most of the country, consumers have more time to cook, and they’re turning to potatoes.

“The crisis is certainly forcing people who have never considered cooking at home how to cook at home,” Johnson said. “We are working feverishly to communicate with them through social media and print platforms to keep them informed and creative in the kitchen. We anticipate this being a great time for families to come together and reconnect over a great meal with Idaho potatoes.”

Johnson said potato sales in foodservice have dropped significantly since national and local governments have prohibited mass gatherings, thus forcing dining rooms to close. He said the commission is working with customers to shift volume from foodservice to retail channels.

Many areas of the country will have shelter-in-place laws through April, which will give consumers plenty of time in their kitchens.

“We expect people will continue to learn how to cook at home,” Johnson said. “The beautiful thing about Idaho potatoes is they can go with virtually any meal. Take a look at our recipe database to see how much there is to choose from. Plus, when you consider the cost per pound, we are the cheapest longest-lasting fresh items on the shelf.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services