Market Year 2017/18 was a banner year for U.S. potatoes, with global exports at a record high of over $1.7 billion. New sales contributed to strong export growth, supported by new menu items, product launches, and endorsements from credible nutrition sources. Exports of U.S. frozen potatoes alone reached a record 8,940 metric tons, valued at $11.6 million. This is up 43% by volume and 48% by value compared with the previous year, and more than three times their level just five years ago.
Potatoes USA is the marketing organization behind the growth, representing the 2,500 commercial potato growers operating in the United States, promoting five main potato products: fresh table-stock potatoes, fresh chipping potatoes, seed potatoes, frozen potato products, and dehydrated potato products. Potatoes USA provides culinary potato inspiration to key audiences, along with useful tools, education and support.
Potatoes USA’s strategy for exposure, innovation, and engagement is creating momentum for U.S. potato exports, particularly to Vietnam. With a focus in foodservice trade education in the area, Vietnamese restaurants are developing their menus to feature more potatoes. Thanks to Potato USA’s trade education activities conducted during the July 2017-June 2018 marketing year, at least ten companies made significant changes to their potato purchases, translating into more than 4 metric tons a month in new frozen potato exports.
Foodservice promotions featuring new menu creations engage and encourage consumers to see U.S. potatoes as global fare. Menu development activities, chef seminars, contests and reverse trade missions have inspired potato innovation across all foodservice channels by encouraging participants to push the boundaries of potato versatility.
The Foreign Agricultural Service of USDA, and their Market Access Program, Quality Samples Program, Emerging Markets Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program, helped fund this international marketing activity. Marketing programs also benefit from strong support and participation by the U.S. potato industry, National Potato Council and state potato grower organizations.
U.S. frozen fries are made from premium Russet potatoes, grown to just the right size to yield a high percentage of longer fries. A study at Oregon State University comparing U.S. Extra Long Fancy Fries to the highest grade fries from other world exporters found the U.S. fries yielded more servings per case due to the extra length.
Potatoes have a reputation for high soil disturbance, so U.S. farmers rotate their potato crop, meaning potatoes are planted only once every 3-5 years on the same land. At the start of the growing season, farmers work with certified agronomists to monitor nutrient levels in the soil. This ensures a healthier crop and a more sustainable farm.