(April 9, 1:57 p.m.) Two well-known potato operations have launched a new company designed to strengthen services and marketing abilities, hiring the U.S. Potato Board’s lead marketer to head the venture.

Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, and Farm Fresh Direct LLC, Monte Vista, Colo., have formed Category Partners LLC, a marketing company that will concentrate on category management, innovative products and packaging and promotions, according to a news release.

Wada Farms and Farm Fresh Direct will continue operating as separate entities, and Mac Johnson, former vice president of domestic marketing for the Denver-based U.S. Potato Board, is Category Partners’ president and chief executive officer, the release said.

“While we are two separate businesses, both our organizations saw an opportunity to improve our category management and marketing approaches to support our customers,” said Jim Knutzon, president of Farm Fresh, in the release. “Both of our firms have paid a great deal of attention to production, great product and superior service, but as rapidly as the market and consumer is changing, we knew we had to include another facet to our organizations to succeed in the long term.”

Johnson worked at the potato board for eight years, overseeing its retail, chip, innovation and research programs. Before that, he had marketing roles at Columbus, Ga.-based Charlotte, N.C.-based Tom’s Foods Inc., Minneapolis-based General Mills, Beatrice Foods, a division of Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods Inc., and New York, N.Y.-based Ketchum Advertising, the release said.