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Aspen to focus on 10-lb. russets

New products are entering the Aspen Produce mix this season, but Director of Business Development Jed Ellithorpe said the company’s primary focus is its mainstay.

“This year our main push is on our conventional 10-pound russets,” Ellithorpe said in mid-August. “We want to continue to appeal to the majority of our customers.”aspenjedandrickn-for-webJed and Rick Ellithorpe

In addition, Aspen is offering new 3- and 5-pound bags to regional retail, mainly in its home state of Colorado, he said.

The new packaging comes in tandem with the company’s new organic potatoes, which Ellithorpe said would make up approximately 5 percent of its volume in 2017.

“Organics are taking hold, and the acreage has made a pretty good jump in this area,” he said. He added that it would be mostly russets that will be offered in certified organics.

“We’re marketing the organics to our base,” he continued. “This will boost their entire potato program, we believe.” Ellithorpe said that it is “important for retailers to monitor every SKU in their category,” and he noted that while it is “nice to have a jam packed category for a lot of options, some options don’t make a lot of sense for retailers.”

Organics do make sense, he said, saying that Aspen has looked at spending sales data to match product to customer. “That’s how we got to this organic program,” he said.

He said that Aspen would also have increased volume for foodservice this season as well.

“Foodservice seems to be adding more potatoes to menus and finding value in using large potatoes,” he said. “Foodservice business is based on size profiles, and if you look at 2016’s volumes, it will be in place at least another season [if sizing is there].”

Seasonal weather could provide the sizing, he said. “We’ve had a lot of rain this year. It’s been nice, and we don’t see a lot of difference from last year.” Ellithorpe said cartons “went high at the end of the year, and foodservice demand is increasing. We anticipate having good volume for it.”

Russets will be the main spud, but Ellithorpe said there would be some reds and yellows for foodservice as well in 2017.

Hitting on the topic of new technology, he said some farms, Aspen’s included, are using a new harvester that is “a lot gentler on potatoes.” He added, “Our goal is to minimize bruising and damage at harvest.”

The company is also adopting the three-year rotation plan, using green manure and other crops to boost sustainability and improve quality.

He added that the region’s aquifer situation, which a decade ago was dire, is abating. “The aquifer is recovering,” he said. “The programs that were put into place to fix the problem are working great.”