here’s an idea: fried potato baskets
Since 2011 I’ve incorporated a new tradition into my elaborate spread of Thanksgiving feasting–fried potato baskets. I don’t recall where I found the inspiration for this amazing fried potato vessel, only that when I searched the interwebs for a recipe one was not to be had. I winged it, and they turned out great. (Read more about this culinary exploration on my personal site.) I can’t help but think my recipe has since made the rounds as there are now several tutorials out there.
Essentially anything can be served in a fried potato bowl but my go-to filling is roasted garlic and gruyere mashed potatoes. I made extra baskets this year, as they keep extremely well, and for brunch filled them with cheesy scrambled eggs. And then it struck me: these baskets have potential.
So what does this have to do with anything?
Recently I had the pleasure of working with my colleague who developed Trader Joe’s Coconut Whipped Topping. (Basically a ridiculously delicious non-dairy whipped cream in a can.) I knew, I mean… I knew this item was going to be big. When I started working on the design I actually tossed a handful of iterations out of the window solely based on, “How is this going to Instagram?” To be clear, I didn’t ignore basic package design tenants–but I tried to imagine what this item was going to look like once posted on a lifestyle site such as Refinery29.com. (Or as I call it, the Instagram-effect.)
My intuition was spot on and within a day of product launch the sheer volume of web-love for this item was staggering.
But all glory is fleeting and it won’t be long before non-dairy coconut whipped topping in a can becomes ubiquitous throughout the land of private brand–but it doesn’t matter. What matters is who consistently innovates the best new product first.
When it comes to product development there are only so many manufacturers and everyone has access to similar, if not the same, sourcing. Just attend any food show. Product developers need to stop thinking about what is available and start reverse engineering the development process.
Who sells hash browns? Everyone. Who makes a fried potato basket? No one. Could an existing hash brown vendor make a fried potato basket? Yes–we are talking about potatoes and oil. This item is essentially just a hash brown shaped into a bowl. It’s vegan. It’s gluten-free. Who wouldn’t want to put a salad in this? The possibilities are endless.
By modifying the expectation (and application) of the ingredients, a common breakfast side is now a somewhat revolutionary vessel for serving food.
Most of all, I can already visualize the love for fried potato baskets across the blogosphere.
OK, so maybe fried potato baskets isn’t the game-changing answer; however, creating a successful private label program will require becoming “that brand” known for offering products that excite and pique the curiosity of consumers, especially millennials. Simply putting a different label on the same product that everyone else has on the shelf isn’t enough.
So call your hash brown vendor and see what they can do!