At a time when sending mail seems as antiquated as buying CDs, the potato-sending business is actually quite robust.
In May 2015, a 24-year-old man named Alex Craig started a business in Dallas to send potatoes etched with personalized messages for $8 to $10 a piece. His girlfriend told him it was the “stupidest idea ever,” but within two days Potato Parcel brought in $2,000 in revenue.
Five months later, Craig sold the business to Bay Area entrepreneur Riad Bekhit for $40,000. Potato Parcel, now based in San Bruno, California, buys Idaho Russet potatoes from local grocery stores and uses Pilot G2 gel roller pens to write the message. In February, it posted $25,000 in sales, its highest to date. “We’ve made our investment back within a few months,” Bekhit tells Quartz. “There’s just something about receiving a potato when opening a package—it’s something people don’t forget.”
Sales have doubled since the company’s launch, which Bekhit credits to its spudding innovation.
New products include Potato Pal (a potato with a picture of someone’s face) and Potato Postcard (a postcard pasted onto a potato). He’s also created holiday-themed spuds, such as the Lump of Coal Potato (a potato that’s spray-painted black) and Spooky Tater (a potato painted to look like a pumpkin).
No heart spud was created for Valentine’s Day, yet potatoes were a surprisingly popular gift for the holiday. Sales for the first 12 days of February exceeded $1,000 each day, says Bekhit.
Bekhit aspires to make Potato Parcel a global business and has expanded to the UK, Canada, and Australia.
While sending potatoes through the mail is certainly quirky, there are no barriers, like intellectual property, stopping others from replicating Potato Parcel’s business. A crop of copycats—including Mystery Potato, Mail a Spud, and Potato in the Post—has sprung up since the launch of Potato Parcel. “Potato Parcel is the originator. … The competitors do not have as much web traffic as we do,” he says.
And not the same innovation either. “None of them add images to the potatoes,” he notes.