Potato Grower

January 2019

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decided to go to college and get a job where I didn't have to get up so early in the morning and work so late at night." Hoffman earned bachelor's master's and doctorate degrees in business from the University of Texas. Eventually, despite his best intentions to steer clear of it, the produce industry got a hold of him again. In 1973, he purchased a produce company on Houston's Produce Row and started working those same long hours he had meant to avoid in his career. "I realized I just liked the action and the moving around," he says. "It was so much more than looking at a computer and doing spreadsheets." In 1985, another opportunity to expand the company arose. A neighbor on Produce Row was looking to sell his potato distribution business. Hoffman bought the facility and became a potato salesman. He quickly realized that some changes in the potato side of the business needed to made. It was common practice in those days for the potato distributors in the region to mix their No. 1-graded potatoes with their No. 2s, and simply sell them labeled "Potatoes." Hoffman and his competitors would compete for customers solely on the basis of price, all but ignoring quality. "It was virtually impossible to win a war where everything is based solely on price," says Hoffman. "You'd lose money trying to stay ahead of the next guy. So we changed our approach. We packed either all No. 1 potatoes in a bag labeled "No. 1," or all No. 2 potatoes in a bag labeled as such. We sold the No. 1s and No. 2s at their own prices. We explained to our customers what we were doing, they understood it, and that's how we started growing." WWW.POTATOGROWER.COM 25

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