“With the development of other types of food, potatoes are always competing for ‘stomach share,’” Richards said, but the USPB programs are highly successful, with a more than 500% return on investment.
click image to zoomTara SchupnerBetween meetings and presentations, attendees at the U.S. Potato Board's annual meeting spent time networking, including Pete Ewing (from left), of Ewing Farms Inc., Big Lake, Minn.; Tom Wingard, of Wingard Farms, Elk River, Minn.; Mike Carter, USPB co-chairman of the domestic marketing committee, Rosholt, Wis.; and Duane Maatz, of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.In particular, the board’s retail and foodservice campaigns are garnering big bangs for their bucks, with retail programs producing a return of nearly $5 for each dollar the board spends and foodservice programs nearly $12.50 per dollar, Richards said.
Exports of U.S. potatoes also continue to be a bright spot in the industry, with the volume of potatoes leaving the country doubling from 2000 to 2012.
Fresh potatoes recently gained access to Thailand and Vietnam, and more than 30 retail promotion programs in other countries have increased sales of U.S. fresh potatoes by more than 200%, international marketing co-chairmen Rob Davis and Ritchey Toevs told attendees.
However, Jerry Wright, president and CEO of United Potato Growers of America, brought things full circle on March 15 with a warning to members about the need for growers in all sectors (including frozen and dehydrated) to work together instead of encroaching on other sectors.
“Domestic consumption of fresh potatoes is declining … but production is increasing. Growers need to act responsibly in each sector to grow only what they’ve contracted to grow, he said. “Growers often say, ‘I’m not the problem.’ But you are. You’re the problem.”
Growers overproducing and then selling their excess into other sectors is hurting the industry as a whole, Wright said.
“Don’t produce extra potatoes and plan to sell them into other sectors. This is our industry’s problem, and we need to work together to fix it,” he said. “We need to unify behind common strategies and sacrifice together — everyone has to sacrifice our profits, sacrifice our autonomy, sacrifice our pride, and sacrifice our independence and freedom.”
Outgoing chairman Sid Staunton wrapped up his tenure on a positive note before turning over leadership to new chairman Rob Davis.
“We’re on the right path,” Staunton said. “We have many challenges, but with the right people, we can really change things.”
Staunton said he anticipates the search for a new CEO will take about 12 to 16 weeks.
O’Connor was also optimistic, saying he believes he leaves the USPB in good shape.