The Little Potato Company's Angela Santiago Talks Creamer Potato Demand, Online Trends, and Cross-Merchandising
EDMONTON, ALBERTA - If the food pyramid had a “comfort” category, potatoes would certainly be pictured. And at a time when everyone needs a little comfort, it’s no surprise that Creamers and others in the category have been flying off the shelves.
“It is a vegetable item that is not as highly perishable as other fresh produce items, and potatoes are familiar. There’s no learning what to do with them,” says Angela Santiago, CEO and Co-Founder.
As we discuss the pivot the COVID-19 pandemic demanded of our industry, and of her team specifically, Angela walks me through the impacts of this temporary normal.
“March was definitely the month all bets were off—we saw an incredible surge in demand in our products, and in the potato category in general,” Angela shares, explaining that though the unprecedented demand has since tapered off, the team is still well ahead in filling orders compared to previous years for April.
The big question, Angela points out, is how long the current situation will continue and what the return will look like.
“As an industry or a society, I don’t think we will all be going back in to work at the same time or on the same level,” she says. “Shelves are being emptied now not because consumers are panic-buying, but because it is difficult to keep up through the supply chain, leading to a second set of challenges coming our way. We’re doing everything we can to get our products to our retail partners and consumers quickly, and we’re optimizing our supply chain process in order to do this.”
In working to understand how to best help consumers, Angela is intrigued by both what they are buying right now and what they are pairing with Creamers. Specifically, she looks to how this reliance on buying Creamers can help spread spending to other produce items as well.
“Cross-merchandising or promotion is a great option, both to help dress up the Creamers in-store to get additional items off the shelf and to help families easily put healthy meals together,” she points out. “For produce, we recommend fresh herbs for flavor, and of course there are all sorts of salad options for potatoes. Partnering with other fruits and veg, as well as proteins is a great way to inspire shoppers, especially because many are looking for healthy mealtime solutions. Yes, this is a trend over the past decade, but it has expanded even further as COVID-19 prompts people to be more aware of their health.”
The other point Angela’s monitoring is how this might affect our industry online. Historically, fruits and veg are an area of grocery consumers wanted to touch and choose for themselves. But the Co-Founder sees the lasting effects of COVID-19 as a likely breakthrough in this area.
“Leading up to this, data showed produce lagging in e-commerce. This is one area I think a lot of work can be done to gain consumer confidence, and this situation might have done just that,” Angela says. “We have to accept this will be a larger part of buying habits, even pre-COVID, and there’s a lot I think we can do not just with online shopping, but even in telling our stories on our individual websites.”
For The Little Potato Company, education and inspiration have been a huge focus. Angela says her team is seeing the rewards of that now as massive traffic surges have hit its website, particularly in looking to recipes as consumers blaze through the typical ways of Little potato prep and begin venturing into the experimental.
“I know I have been doing a lot more home cooking, and I have never phoned my mother and mother-in-law so much to get recipes as I have these last few weeks!” Angela laughs. “It is more than cooking. It’s a tip of the hat to our past and being able to connect emotionally to our food through our parents and grandparents.”
Connection, comfort, and creativity. That is a takeaway from these dark days that I can certainly hold on to as we see our way through this uncertain time.