Although potato displays are nothing new in produce departments, the size of those displays is growing.
In retailers’ quest to have the largest display on record, more and more pounds of potatoes are being used.
This trend began last year with the Idaho Potato Commission, which sponsors a potato display contest every year in February.
According to Seth Pemsler, vice president for retail and international sales, the event usually draws about 2,500 entries from retail locations across the country.
“That contest is in its 22nd year,” Pemsler said. “It’s the largest display contest in terms of how many stores enter.”
During last year’s contest, one store decided to take the event to the next level and create the world’s largest potato display.
With the help of the commission, Fresh Market in Spanish Fork, Utah, used 80,000 pounds of potatoes, or two truckloads, to build the world’s largest potato display.
The store then sold the entire display, according to Pemsler.
Then in October, Sobeys, a Canadian retail chain headquartered in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, broke the unofficial record with a display of 92,500 pounds at its Charlottetown location.
The display was built with 10-pound paper bags of Prince Edward Island Potatoes, according to a news release from Prince Edward Island Potato Board, Charlottetown.
“We participated in that and had a little fun with it, suggesting we beat the big Idaho potatoes,” said general manager Greg Donald.
Potatoes were supplied by local potato growers, including WP Griffin Inc., Elmsdale, and Jewell’s of PEI Inc., York, the release said.
The record-setting display kicked off a week-long sale leading up to the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
The display also included a barbecue for the next two days, with proceeds from the meals going to the Canada Potato Museum in O’Leary, PEI. WP Griffin Inc., brought its portable potato baking machine and supplied baked potatoes to the crowd.
Both the PEI and WP Griffin mascots also attended the events.
Now, the Washington State Potato Commission, Moses Lake, Wash., is getting in on the trend.
On November 11, a display featuring 133,000 pounds of Washington potatoes opened to the public at Chuck’s Produce and Street Marketing in Vancouver, Wash.
The display is made with 50-pound cartons of an assortment of Washington-grown varieties and will help kick-off a pre-Thanksgiving sale for shoppers in the Vancouver area.
“The event has proved to be a fun and interesting way for shoppers to stock up on Washington state potatoes,” Ryan Holterhoff, director of marketing and industry affairs said in an e-mail.
“We look forward to having many of Chuck’s customers enjoying the versatility and nutritional value of Washington potatoes during their upcoming meals,” he said.
Pemsler says he sees no real harm in stores competing for the largest display, as long as they are selling out the potatoes in store and not just packing them back up and shipping them to other stores. Of course, even if that were the case, it would still bring positive attention to the category.
“If nothing else, it brings notice to the category,” he said. “So it’s not a bad thing.”
Pemsler also mentioned that when it comes time for their annual display contest this year, retailers should remember that bigger isn’t always better.
“We look at varieties, creativity, point-of-sale materials, and other things in selecting a winner,” he said.