Associations and grower-shippers direct a lot of their promotional efforts at retailer buyers.
Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail and international for the Idaho Potato Commission, Eagle, said he promotes Idaho potatoes by telling retailers why they should stock them.
“If you carry Idaho potatoes, you can make more money. Consumers will pay more because it is the premium product and it could have a halo effect on other produce items,” he said.
“The more premium brands that are carried, the more it says ‘we’re focused on quality.’”
The Antigo-based Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association uses a contest, the Wisconsin Potatoes Spudster Giveaway, to drive retailer buyers’ interest to Wisconsin-grown products.
Tim Feit, director of promotion and consumer education, said produce buyers and managers can register in April to win Genuine Scooter Co.’s Buddy motor scooters. Point-of-purchase displays advertising the consumer motor scooter giveaway can be displayed in produce departments from late April through May.
Consumers will be able to register beginning April 28 on the association’s consumer-focused website, www.eatwisconsinpotatoes.com, and produce buyers and managers will be able to register during
April on the industry-focused site, www.wisconsinpotatoes.com, Feit said. Winners will be chosen by random drawing.
The commission brainstorms creative and humorous ways to promote potatoes, Pemsler said. One successful retail-based effort is its Idaho Potato Lover’s Month annual display contest, which ended Feb. 25. The commission provided marketing support and materials for displays.
Spanish Fork, Utah, retailer Fresh Market used 80,000 pounds of Idaho potatoes to build the “world’s largest potato display.” The display included about 240,000 russets.
That display went well beyond just drawing customers’ attention. It was part of a community event with in-store activities, demonstrations and samplings. The store sold 10-pound bags of Idaho potatoes for 59 cents each, Pemsler said.
The contests generate thousands of entries annually and they create enough demand that shippers sometimes struggle to keep up in February, Pemsler said.
“Demand goes through the roof,” he said.
The commission has four regional retail promotions directors that visit buyers from chains with at least 25 stores.
The four directors are superhero characters in an online cartoon video campaign, The Idaho Potato Fearless Field Force, which is in its third year. When potato sales are down, the four “heroes” can save the day. In February, the commission began shipping new Field Force bobbleheads to retailer buyers throughout the U.S.
In real life, the four directors attend major trade shows and participate with trade associations. They also offer assistance with category management. The directors can assist retailers by analyzing data from the Denver-based U.S. Potato Board and from Market Track.
Pemsler said the commission has a database of every potato advertisement from throughout the U.S., and it can provide digital copies of the most recent three months of competitors’ ads to its customers.
The commission also supports retailers’ marketing by offering ad support. Retailers are paid for placing the Idaho logo in their ads.
The U.S. Potato Board provides consumer data and analyses, formal and informal marketing training, sales data and analysis and collaborative assistance to retailers, said Kathleen Triou, vice president of domestic marketing.
The board’s Best in Class Program recommends that retailers stock an assortment of potatoes and display them by variety. Ad circulars should include bag, bulk and multiple varieties, along with educational information. Point-of-sale educational materials such as signs, recipes, nutrition information and preparation tips should be on display.
Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho, is a part-owner of Category Partners LLC, which provides category management for retailers, said Kevin Stanger, Wada senior vice president.
He said Mac Johnson, chief executive officer of Category Partners, and his team can help retailers with market and industry research, consumer trend studies, and advertising and marketing development.
About 35% of Wada’s fresh potatoes are marketed under the Dole label, Stanger said. Dole’s prestige and financial resources help it reach end-users with marketing and advertising.
Wada does many cross-promotions with Dole potatoes, including some that offer free or discounted Dole bagged salads with potato purchases. Other tie-ins have included beef, potato toppings, sour cream and sausage, Stanger said.
With a shipper’s label or a store-brand label, retailers might use display-ready containers and bins, coupons and promotional tie-ins to draw shoppers to potatoes.
Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, Minn., gets only occasional requests for signs. Most retailers prefer to use their own point-of-sale materials so they can achieve a consistent look throughout the produce department, said Ted Kreis, marketing director.