A Potatoes USA strategy of introducing displays of fresh U.S. potatoes through top retailers in Central America resulted in a 93 percent increase in sales among participating outlets in 2020. Just as importantly, the results showed retailers how strategic merchandising can spur new sales and optimize profits in the fresh potato category.
In Central America, fresh potatoes are a popular item among shoppers at grocery stores. However, retailers and consumers still lack knowledge of U.S. fresh table-stock varieties. To build knowledge and familiarity with U.S. potatoes, Potatoes USA has utilized USDA Market Access Program funding to carry out retail promotions and education. During the July 2019-June 2020 marketing year, the retail program had an additional tool in the form of new research on the best practices for merchandising of fresh potatoes, which showed that adding a secondary location, such as at the end of an aisle, is one of multiple tactics that can lift potato sales.
In Central America, Potatoes USA representatives used these findings during one-on-one visits and merchandising consultations with the region’s largest retailers to help them maximize their U.S. potato sales. During the first three quarters of the year, the strategy convinced 35 outlets in El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, and Honduras to adopt secondary displays. Sales numbers from 30 of these outlets show that as a group, they sold an additional 2.4 metric tons a day of U.S. fresh potatoes during the time these displays were used. The outlets reported total sales during the time they ran additional displays were up 93 percent from the amount normally sold daily without the displays.
Feedback from store personnel was positive, with at least one calling the results “remarkable” and many indicating that they will continue to periodically feature a second display of U.S. potatoes to boost sales.
The results of the secondary displays and other retail activities such as promotions have aided U.S. exports to this region. During July 2019-March 2020, the value of U.S. fresh potato exports to target countries in Central America rose 6 percent to $11.8 million, while export volume increased .22 percent to 21,178 metric tons.