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‘Fresh Sides’ looks to stand out in microwavable potato category

RIVERHEAD, NY — The increasingly popular microwavable potato category has a new option, courtesy of Fresh From The Start, a grower-shipper of a full line of produce, based here.

The new line, Fresh Sides, was launched earlier this year and is available in six SKUs, according to Dan Dubinsky, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Fresh From The Start. Those SKUs are reds, yellows, whites, russets, fingerlings and sweet potatoes.

What sets “Fresh Sides” apart from other products in the category is a proprietary bag that allows consumers to add their own seasonings and then steam the potatoes DSCN3382Dan Dubinsky, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Fresh From the Start in Riverhead, NY, was instrumental in the development of ‘Fresh Sides.’in the bag in a matter of minutes, resulting in a healthy and “homemade” side dish. Additionally, the BPA-free bag has stay-cool handles that allow for easy and safe handling after cooking.

“We knew that we wanted to come to market with a line of steamable products, but we wanted to be different than what is already out there,” Mr. Dubinsky told The Produce News. “We wanted to develop something natural, healthy, quick and easy that does not have locked-in processed seasonings. Our ‘Fresh Sides’ line allows consumers to add their own flavor enhancers, and there are literally hundreds of fresh and common pantry ingredients that can be used, including cooked meats. ‘Fresh Sides’ products are great for mashed, smashed, soups, salads and for utilizing leftovers.”

The ‘Fresh Sides’ line uses potatoes that are sourced from company-owned farms as well as from other regions. “We use local product when possible, when quality and flavor are at their best,” he said.

Potatoes come whole with skin on in the bag, which boosts the nutritional content due to the high content of vitamins and minerals contained in the skin. Also, the potatoes are triple-washed and need no refrigeration. Consumers simply remove and cut the potatoes, return them to the bag with the seasonings of their choice and pop them in the microwave for eight minutes. The potatoes also may be cooked whole. Handling and usage ideas are on the bag as well as on a special web site (www.fresh-sides.com) set up by the company, which can be accessed by smart phone users via a QR code on the bag.

The “Fresh Sides” packaging also won an American Graphic Design Award, according to Mr. Dubinsky, who said that the goal was to create a “clean, healthy and fresh look” for the product.

The fact that SKUs in the “Fresh Sides” line do not have to be refrigerated is a huge advantage for retailers, according to Mr. Dubinsky, and Fresh From The Start offers retailers merchandising support in the form of a kit, with product information, signage and a freestanding display unit.

“It allows retailers more options for how to display them, and our point-of-merchandising display unit provides good visibility, ease of loading and can get the product out to the end-caps of an aisle,” he said.

Potatoes for the “Fresh Sides” line are packed at the company’s facility in Youngwood, PA, a location that enables overnight distribution all over the East. The line is currently being distributed in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions.

“We want to focus on the East Coast at this point, because we believe in quality and service and we want to create a successful market here first and then look to expand distribution,” said Mr. Dubinsky.