The Potandon Story
Potandon Produce is the largest marketer of fresh tablestock potatoes in the nation and also a leading marketer of fresh onions. From the company headquarters in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Potandon manages a nationwide network of growing and packing operations in every major shipping area, offering a continuous 52 week supply for fresh market channels.
The formation and growth of Potandon Produce is an amazing story; one which demonstrates how hard work, sticking to principles, and understanding the consumer made all the difference. In the early 1990’s The Pillsbury Company operated one fresh potato plant located in Shelley, Idaho. The sales group at the time consisted of just a few people who can be credited with introducing the Green Giant® brand into the fresh potato category. As the business grew, a core group of Pillsbury employees had a vision of the future; one in which Green Giant® potatoes were sold nationwide. In 1995, while Pillsbury was in the middle of a company-wide series of changes, these same people pulled their resources and made an offer to buy the rights to the Green Giant® brand from Pillsbury. The intent was to form a new company that would focus only on fresh potatoes and fresh onions. The offer was accepted and with it came the formation of a new company called Potandon Produce LLC. Many people over time have asked what the company name means. It’s a combination of our business areas – POTatoes AND ONions.
The founders of the company quickly developed a network of co-packers in several key areas and developed packaging to complement their products. Growth was steady as the assembled team targeted key retail accounts in areas with strong brand recognition. Two areas that really stood out in this newly formed company were quality standards that exceeded the industry standards and a strict adherence to Food Safety standards. At the time, food safety was a low priority in the fresh produce industry and gave Potandon a real statement of differentiation as compared to other potato and onion suppliers. Every employee, right from the start, knew that Potandon was going to be something special. With a powerful national brand, knowledgeable leaders, and a goal of 101% customer satisfaction, the team turned their attention to growing the business in the late 1990’s.
While business was growing in conventional potatoes and onions, the management started work behind the scenes focused on developing and marketing something new; something that would bring new life to the fresh potato category and provide a foundation for future expansion. The culmination of those behind the scenes years came to a head in 2002, when Potandon proudly launched Klondike Rose® potatoes. The variety was heralded as the first new impactful variety to be introduced in fresh potatoes in several decades. Everyone at Potandon had high hopes for the new variety as distribution grew. What they didn’t realize at the time was that this single event would serve as the catalyst for a revolution of change that continues even today. Potandon followed soon thereafter with Klondike Goldust® a yellow potato which has grown to be recognized as the best yellow potato in North America.
These two successful launches entrenched Potandon as the industry leader in innovation, another recognition which continues even today. It also paved the way for rapid company growth in multiple areas. The staff grew and the company quickly outgrew their offices and moved to a larger building. New product development became a realistic strategic business unit and a major part of the operating strategy of the company. A steady stream of new and impactful items followed which include the first national branded line of mini potatoes, seasoned microwave potatoes, and other specialty and seasonal potato blends. The rest of the industry watched Potandon’s successes grow and soon followed with their own new products based upon the variety platform Potandon was building in the category. The results are still being realized as the fresh potato category continues to evolve into a more consumer-friendly, healthy, and exciting destination for shoppers.
Most companies would have been happy with seeing their efforts pay dividends, but the visionary leaders at Potandon were not about to take time off to celebrate. Instead they took the learning for their innovative efforts and with the help of several partners from across the world, started another company; one which had no equal. Sunrain® Varieties LLC emerged as the only privately held North American broadline commercial seed breeding company. With world class facilities capable of breeding and reproducing commercial potato seed, Potandon was able to develop proprietary varieties which would secure their future as industry leaders. The impressive Sunrain® complex continue to grow in size and value; world-class testing facilities, a huge greenhouse complex, stem labs, and a seed farm in eastern Idaho are some of the key investments. Potandon has a level of vertical integration that is without comparison in the industry and up to this point no competitor has even made an effort to replicate.
The global team continues to search out potato varieties in South America, Europe, Korea, Australia, and North America that can bring additional value to consumers and Potandon alike. Our variety development program is looking ten years down the road and developing potatoes for the future consumer based on extensive consumer research. Potandon continues to demonstrate leadership across every level of the category and is positioned to be the industry leader throughout the rest of the century. Whether you are buying Green Giant®, Sunfresh®, Klondike Brands®, The Valley®, or Potandon® brand fresh potatoes and onions, you can be certain that you are getting the freshest, safest, and highest quality produce available.