Friday, August 11, 2017

Marketing genius

It's gotten to that time of year where we're harvesting new potatoes from the garden. We didn't actually plant any potatoes this year -- what we're digging up are from feral spuds, plants that sprouted from potatoes we missed when we cleaned out the garden last year. There aren't a huge number of plants, but that's okay. We don't eat as many potatoes as we used to because we're supposed to be watching out potassium (one of the joys of aging is you start having to worry about stuff that not many years earlier you were blissfully unaware could ever be a problem). Usually two-thirds of the garden is potato plants; this year we've got a large section that's planted in clover and is going to be fallow for a year or two.

Anyway, because we're just digging up a plant or two at a time, I'm basically picking everything that looks big enough to count as an actual potato. You know, tubers that are bigger than marbles, although in some cases not by much. Picking those midget potatoes, the tiny stuff that if this was a normal year and I'd planted potatoes on purpose I'd be tossing over the fence for the chipmunks to enjoy, reminded me of an example of marketing genius we spotted at Econo Foods a few weeks ago.

Anyone who's ever grown potatoes know the little ones are a fact of life. Doesn't matter what variety of spud you're trying to grow, there are going to be some midget tubers when harvest time rolls around. Those used to be the ones that got shunted to one side to be fed to the cows or marketed to companies that process spuds into instant potatoes. They did not get sent to the supermarket to be sold to ordinary consumers. The assumption for decades was that people wanted potatoes big enough to actually look like potatoes, not marbles.

Then some genius decided, hey, how about if we quadruple the price over what ordinary potatoes sell for and give them a cute name? End result: what used to be the reject potatoes, the ones that were culled from the production line before the spuds on the belt got to the baggers, are now the high dollar specialty potatoes, the gourmet "gemstones," "baby" potatoes that merit being sold for $5.99 a pound. Or maybe a little more. According to the Melissa's Produce website, that tiny one-and-a-half pound sack of infant tubers goes for $11.99 online. Plus shipping, no doubt.

As for just how large those gemstone spuds are, the first photo is of similarly sized babies I pulled out of our garden  the other day. Of course, the midgets were in the minority -- most of  our spuds were a respectable size instead of resembling dirt-covered marbles.

In any case, sheer genius on the part of Melissa, whoever she might be. Not only did her company figure out a way to use every single spud that came out of the ground no matter how tiny it might be, they figured out a way to charge more for what used to be the throwaways than for the normal sized potatoes. Only in America. . .

P. T. Barnum would be proud.