Bako Sweet | August 2020

Beneath the Skin

Before there were gratins, Pommes Anna, and hasselbacks, casseroles, latkes, and fritters: there was the potato. Though a humble vegetable, there is no other so revered for its countless forms, so celebrated for its friendliness to all flavors, and so synonymous with holiday spreads than the Solanum tuberosum.

For the culinary inclined, a potato is not just a potato, but an open hand inviting any to the world of their own imagination and creativity—an open hand quickly starting to resemble that of the team’s behind The Little Potato Company.

Richard Vann, Vice President of Marketing and Product Innovation, The Little Potato Company“The foundation of our company is transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary; it’s a big part of The Little Potato Company’s DNA,” Richard Vann, Vice President of Marketing and Product Innovation, begins to tell me before I stop him with an incredulous, “Potatoes are ordinary?!”

A naïve question, really, considering how The Little Potato Company has undertaken the task of transforming a thousands-year-old category, zhuzhing it up with on-trend perks like convenience and flavor so that it continues to speak to even the savviest of today’s consumers.

“We’re constantly looking at how we can further delight our retail partners and consumers with a unique blend of current and innovative products that fulfil consumers’ needs for convenient and unique proprietary varieties and nutritious meals,” Richard continues. “Because, at the end of the day, we’re in the business of feeding the world, better, all starting with the humble little potato.”

But not just any little potato: the Creamer potato. Since its inception, The Little Potato Company has narrowed its focus to one variety in order to perfect its offering selection and change the narrative into one in which a simple potato is ordinary without the value The Little Potato Company brings to the table.

“We grow and package small Creamer potatoes. In fact, Creamer potatoes is all we do, so we have to be the best. We give it 110 percent, and as a result, we are one of the top Creamer companies and brands in North America,” Richard emphasizes.

As The Little Potato Company polished and refined the know-how of its proprietary variety, it also began to shape the category as a whole with ahead-of-the-trend items, like its recently debuted Easy Sides, the first-ever fully-cooked product from The Little Potato Company.

“Easy Sides are our latest no stress meal solution. It is also our answer to a busy family’s dinner dilemma of what to put on the table that is quick, easy to prepare, and nutritious,” Richard explains. “The product includes fully-cooked, pre-seasoned Creamer potatoes and features four family-friendly flavors: Sea Salt and Black Pepper, Paprika and Bell Pepper, Onion and Garlic, and Sweet Bell Pepper and Onion.”

At the insistence of Richard, I make my way to my local Market Basket with a mission to buy and trial The Little Potato Company’s Easy Sides for myself. While I was expecting to have to hunt for the company’s logo in the produce aisle, I instantly found a selection of its products—leading me to award The Little Potato Company bonus convenience points for the quick find. Once in the kitchen, preparing the potatoes was as easy as spud, two, three. And, as someone who is not the best at staying true to a recipe, I found myself hesitating with a “Wait, that’s it?” as the Easy Sides are seriously too—for lack of a better word—easy to make. This is, of course, by design. The Little Potato Company’s team has worked hard to make sure its offerings check off all the necessary boxes. One way it accomplishes this is by regularly conducting consumer research to stay on top of the latest trends.

The Little Potato Company makes an effort to marry convenience and flavor in all of its offerings

“We discovered via consumer research that one of the biggest pain points when it comes to eating potatoes is that they are too time consuming and complicated to prepare,” Richard shares with me. “With our new Easy Sides, we’ve taken the complication out. We know that consumers are looking for easy, healthy options for their families, and convenience is king. So, it was only natural that our next step would be to develop a product like the Easy Sides, which can be prepared in seven minutes and served anywhere on the plate as a side or main dish.”

Consumer demand for convenience is truly unrivalled—except by flavor, which is why The Little Potato Company marries the two together in each of its products. For example, another of its newer items: the Lemon and Garden Herb Microwave Ready flavor. Richard notes survey findings show that nearly half of Americans eat potatoes a few times a week, underscoring the importance of variety and encouraging The Little Potato Company to expand a popular line with even more delicious, and convenient, options.

“The quest for convenience continues to be a top priority among consumers, with our survey revealing that microwaving is the third most common way to cook potatoes. When developing the newest Microwave Ready flavor, we combined the familiar flavors of fresh herbs and bright lemon to create a classic combination that is the perfect companion for any type of protein,” Richard says. “Our Microwave-Ready Lemon and Garden Herb kit is versatile enough to be enjoyed at every kind of meal, from busy weeknights where you need a quick option to holiday meals where you can savor food and family.”

To drive all of this home at the retail level, The Little Potato Company supported the launch of its new products with targeted social media, digital advertising, and in-store merchandising support like demos. The company also developed several point-of-sale options that pop on shelf and allow retailers to drive consumption through the display.

“We work with our retail partners to offer the best products in the best channel. We have a variety of product offerings for different consumers,” Richard explains. “We work with retailers to find the sweet spots and then provide in-store promotions and programs to drive trial and consumption.”

These efforts are ultimately carried out for the sake of the consumer.

If potatoes are the vessel of exploring imagination and creativity, then consumers are The Little Potato Company’s muse and the whole reason why the company has embarked on transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary in the first place.

“Everything we do is to connect to our consumer. Through our products, packaging, promotions, website, and social and digital media, we try to make that connection. On our website we have over 400 Creamer potato recipes to help consumers get dinner on the table. No other potato brand outperforms The Little Potato Company in unaided awareness, recent purchase, overall impression, and likelihood of recommending,” Richard asserts.

Accomplishments the company has achieved by carrying out its vision of feeding the world, better.

“Potatoes are a staple in the American home, and they remain an integral part of any produce department. The Little Potato Company’s potatoes may be small, but our love for Creamer potatoes and growing the category is huge. As we continue to do what we do best, we will keep striving to be pioneers in bringing new products to market and ensuring that everyone, everywhere has healthy nutritious food to eat,” Richard concludes.

Betty Crocker once implied that there is no happier symbol of a friendly home than a full cookie jar. But with industry leaders like The Little Potato Company introducing items that very much resemble the future of produce, I think 2020’s emblem will be potatoes and all the possibilities they offer. Afterall, a world of pure imagination awaits those willing to innovate.