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Wada Farms offers broad line of products to foodservice

As with Idaho itself, Idaho Falls ID-based Wada Farms is perhaps best known for its Idaho russet potatoes. “A lot of people aren’t quite as familiar with the company’s other products as they are with our Idaho russet program,” said Keven Stanger, president of Wada Farms Marketing Group.

For that reason, the theme of Wada Farms’ booth at the PMA Foodservice Expo in Monterey, CA, July 29 will be roots beyond russets.

01-Wada---Kevin-StangerKevin Stanger“We are highlighting all of our onions, our chippers, our organics — the whole gamut. Sweet potatoes specifically,” he said. Most items are available in both organic and conventional versions. “We are highlighting these other areas of Wada Farms’ product offerings that many people are less aware of,” he continued. “We are really focusing on the total, full line of what we have to offer, not only from Idaho but across the country.” They are also emphasizing the one-stop-shop aspects of the company’s programs.

“Everything we do is heavy to foodservice,” he said.

In its sweet potato program, Wada Farms has major production out of North Carolina and has a sweet potato sales office located there. “We also have Mississippi sweets as well as sweet potatoes from other southeastern growing areas,” Stanger said. “We get them from all over.”

Wada Farms also sources sweet potatoes out of the Pacific Northwest. “We are partnering with a grower in Oregon,” he said. “So we are going to have Northwest availability.”

The main sweet potato variety Wada Farms handles is Covington, but they also have some Beauregards and others.

In the potato category, Wada Farms has russets, which continues to be strong at foodservice, Stanger said. In addition, the company has chippers, reds, golds and fingerlings.

Chippers are almost exclusively a foodservice product. “Our supply is grown in southern Idaho,” he said. “Mainly, they are the Juanita variety, but we have a couple of others that are very similar.” Wada’s chipper program continues to grow and develop and is almost year-round now.

Chipper potatoes have become increasingly popular in foodservice, Stanger said. “Just as a lot of people have converted back to fresh cut fries, there are a lot of bars, restaurants, and what-not that are making fresh cut chips. They thin-slice the potatoes for the chips at the restaurant level, and they need a fresh potato that is specifically made for chipping and for frying. Some customers take as much as a truckload a week,” he said.

There are some foodservice operators who also use the chipper potatoes for French fries because they like the lighter look, as compared to a fry made from russets, Stanger noted.

“In varietals, our colored potatoes are big for foodservice,” Stanger said. “The colored potato program used to be heavier to reds and less to yellows, but yellows have really picked up, and it is getting pretty close to 50-50 on the preference for those varietals.”

Onions are a similar deal, Stanger said. “Our onion program is outstanding. We have a full line of onions — reds, whites and yellows that we have available from all across the country.” They are harvested at different times in different growing areas.

So why should a foodservice buyer consider Wada Farms? “There are a lot of options out there and good ones,” Stanger said. His answer is that in addition to the one-stop-shop assortment of products available from Wada, “we try to offer the full package of everything customers are looking for in terms of product availability, service, food safety, and being a leader in sustainability.”

Wada Farms has its own dedicated logistics team in its office that focuses on building truck relationships and assisting customers with securing transportation, he said.

“You put all of that together, combined with Wada Farms’ many years of experience, and the aspect that we are a true grower shipper — it is a pretty natural fit,” he said. There are other companies out there that have some of these, he said, “but I think we are one of the few that has the whole gamut available. We like to pride ourselves on the reputation that we’ve built, that when people say Wada they think of the quality. They think of the service and everything that we put together to service the customer and, importantly, the end user.”

In many cases, Wada Farms works not only with the distributors, but also directly with their customers, helping them with specific wants and needs. “Whether it is contracting, a specific item or a specific size or pack that their customer is looking for, we try to develop what we can to meet their needs,” he said. “I think the full package adds up to a lot of value to a customer.”

Wada’s sales staff is pretty knowledgeable in all segments of the market, said Stanger. “Whether they are working with foodservice, wholesale, retail, or whoever it may be. We try to marry the right people together.”

Wada Farms Marketing has about 25 sales people in the Idaho Falls office, four in North Carolina, and one each in Oregon and Texas.