Marketers agree that the best way to sell potatoes is to help consumers know how to cook them.
“Research shows an increase in sales when a prepared potato dish is featured in the weekly ad circular compared to just a bulk or bagged potato image to communicate the sale,” said Meredith Myers, U.S. Potato Board public relations manager.
The board calls this effort “The Power of Deliciousness.” To demonstrate the theory, the board commissioned research by the Nielsen Perishables Group.
The study found ads featuring prepared potato dishes would outperform ads showing raw potatoes by more than 20 points in each category, with red potatoes showing an increase of 62 points.
“It sounds intuitive, but not everyone is doing it,” she said.
Others agree on the importance of showing consumers a serving suggestion instead of a generic potato image.
“Studies show that potatoes are best advertised using photography that displays prepared potato dishes. This concept entices the consumer to purchase,” said Hannah Hughes, marketing manager for Market Fresh Produce, LLC, Nixa, Mo.
Marketers know that consumers are more easily enticed by a beautifully prepared dish than just the brown skin on the outside of a potato.
“Potatoes aren’t necessarily a ‘glamorous’ produce item so this method of advertising works well for the potato category,” Hughes said.
Packaging that features recipes and serving suggestions are helpful to convey this message.
“Consumers want to know meal application as soon as they buy a product,” Hughes said in an e-mail.
Cross-promotions that help consumers pair potatoes with other food items are also helpful.
Potandon Produce LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho, is working on a campaign with Country Crock that would offer a coupon for cents off a purchase, backed by television and in-store promotions, according to marketing manager Barbara Keckler.
The Idaho Potato Commission, Eagle, has a wine-tie that provides consumers a coupon on featured bottles of wine.
“These are fairly small programs but they still provide incentive,” Seth Pemsler, the commission’s vice president for retail/international.
Value-added items add even more convenience in helping consumers know how to prepare potato dishes because a lot of the work is already done for them.
“Microwave steam pack gourmet potatoes cook in just five minutes,” Hughes said.
She expects to see a lot more emphasis on this category.
“I see the value-added category growing based upon the consumer’s interest and desire for convenience. This type of line will be essential in potato programs going forward as consumer demand increases,” Hughes said.
“Microwave Express business doubled last year and is trending a further 30% ahead this year so far. We are writing recipes using some of our convenience items as the basis, which, in turn, demonstrates to the consumer a wider breadth of meal ideas and quicker way to enjoy fresh potatoes,” Keckler said.
Some serving suggestions come through online channels instead of in-store or in-ad recipes.
Don Odiorne, vice president of foodservice for the Idaho Potato Commission writes a blog called Dr. Potato for the commission.
The blog has recently expanded into an even more popular source of information as consumers come to the site looking for information on specific potato questions, like why a potato turned grey or if it can be frozen.
“Dr. Potato tries to answer those questions and more. We’ll never be able to gear up for the holiday questions like the “Butterball Turkey Hotline” but I think the blog helps people be confident in wanting to cook Idaho potatoes for their friends and family more often,” Odiorne said in an e-mail.
In addition to teaching consumers how to best use potatoes and showing them serving suggestions, companies can connect with consumers through current events and media opportunities.
Potandon recently partnered with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment to save consumers $5 when they purchased the DVD release of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” and a bag of potatoes.
“The promotion allowed retailers to set up secondary displays in areas that consumers normally would not see them and increased basket size for both grocery and produce,” Keckler said.