Our Vancouver

They may be Little Potatoes but the aim is big

Our Vancouver's Innovation show looks at how one company came up with new varieties of potato and packages them in a way to capture the market for busy working moms.

A Canadian company finds its niche in the food industry through innovation

Richard Vann of the Little Pototo Company talks about innovation in the food world 4:28

There are few industries as competitive as the food sector.

People in the business of selling fruit and vegetables often have to come up with new ways to get their products noticed on grocery store shelves, where there is so much choice.

For this week's Our Vancouver show, with the theme of innovation, host Gloria Macarenko speaks to the man in charge of inventing new products and championing their uniqueness for the Little Potato Company.

The company is Canada-wide, but Richard Vann works in Vancouver. He's one of the team of potato enthusiasts dedicated to making the world a better place by feeding people better food.

"We talk to a lot of families and a lot of customers about what they are looking for," he said.

"What we've learned is that you can innovate in the field and the farm — that's a huge part of our business. And we look at the convenience."

Unlike baby potatoes or nuggets which are harvested early, Little Potatoes are fully mature.

The variety is called a creamer and it was first grown by company founder Angela Santigo and her father Jacob in their small plot outside of Edmonton, Alta.

The company says it has a creamier texture than other varieties.

The Little Potato Company says it includes packaging as part of how it innovates to get its product on grocery store shelves. (CBC)

Today, The Little Potato Company owns exclusive rights to seven varieties that the company founder sources from places around the globe.

The potatoes are grown in Canada. Some of the varieties were developed over many years, says Vann.

"It's helping nature a little bit, but the old fashioned way of just crossing the plants," he said.

"You try thousands and thousands of different crosses and finally you come up with something that has a unique characteristic."

For example, Vann says there is a potato variety originally from Chile that has a slight nutty flavour.

But it's not just the taste that the company tools with — packaging makes a huge difference in getting noticed in the retail space.

Innovation is vital to selling common food items, says Vann.

"A lot of people think of potatoes as big bland and boring but really they are not," he said.

Vann says the company has found a unique way into grocery stores by lobbying to have potatoes packaged differently. They sell them in smaller convenience packs aimed at busy working parents, some with oil and spices included.