|Niche items do not always do well in a recession, however, specialty potatoes have done surprisingly well during the recent economic downturn.
"One of the things that I thought would be affected by the economy was the growth of the varieties - reds, yellows and fingerlings," said Don Odiorne, vice president of foodservice for the Idaho Potato Commission, Eagle. "But if anything they've held strong. I think they're expanding."
The U.S. Potato Board, Denver, said in its second quarter report that premium russets, organics, and red skin and yellow flesh varieties experienced double-digit dollar growth year over year.
The recession actually boosted premium potatoes at retail, the board said, because consumers are dining out less often.
Shoppers also took advantage of lower prices by trading up from "mainstream and bargain products" to gourmet items. Retailers responded by increasing the number of premium stock-keeping units by 9%, the report said.
Foodservice, however, gets some of the credit for the growth in specialty items, said Kevin Stanger, senior vice president of sales for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
"It starts in foodservice," he said. "Consumers see how something is prepared and how it's used at a restaurant. It's like what happened with sweet potatoes. Some restaurant chains are carrying sweet potatoes, and people see how good they are. Then you start seeing it carry over to retail."