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Seven-pound potato bag makes an appearance

makes an appearance


March 31, 2008
By Kathy Birt

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When the Canadian Horticulture
Council (CHC) holds its annual meeting in Ottawa this March, a request
from the P.E.I. Potato Board will be on the agenda.

When the Canadian Horticulture Council (CHC) holds its annual meeting in Ottawa this March, a request from the P.E.I. Potato Board will be on the agenda.

Ivan Noonan, general manager of the board, says a request will be issued to the CHC asking the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to create a test market to allow P.E.I. potato growers to pack a seven-pound bag.

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If the request results prove positive and the agency creates a test market, P.E.I. spud growers, plus anyone else who is interested, will be able to pack the seven-pound bag and work with interested retailers to determine its acceptability to consumers.

The first appearance of the seven-pound bag came about recently at a Loblaws supermarket in Cambridge, Ontario, as an Ontario provincial test market only.

This test was approved by the Ontario provincial legislature.

Noonan says if P.E.I. is successful in their bid for a test market and receive the necessary support from other potato grower organizations across the country, the CFIA will set up the test market in time for the 2006/07 marketing season.

In recent years, growers have been packing increased numbers of three- and five-pound bags, as opposed to 10-pound bags. There are good reasons for this, notes Noonan, adding that the 10-pound bag has been the yardstick of the industry for many years. When consumers are buying more five- and three-pound bags of potatoes, it is usually during a year when growers are getting what Noonan terms “a fair price.” This is when a consumer is looking for a smaller bag at a lower cost.

But the test market could be a double-edged sword. If is approved for Eastern Canada or even all of Canada, Noonan fears it may or may not prove to be a positive thing for growers. “The seven-pound bag may be an added expense for the grower to keep these bags stocked,” he says. “Growers buy bags according to projections, so the key is keeping inventory in rotation … for empty bags, or even for full bags,” says Noonan. But if the test market is approved for the seven-pound bag and it’s what the consumer wants, “then we need to be competitive and use it, too,” he adds.

Dirk Romyn, vice-president of marketing for Atlantic Superstores, has indicated the test market at the Cambridge Loblaws store, is just a plan to “get rid” of the five- and 10-pound bags in Ontario and replace them with the seven-pound units.

Whether or not stores in this region would carry the seven-bag would mean waiting to see the results of the seven-pound bag test market in Cambridge. “Our decision would be based on the results of that test market,” Romyn says.


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