Potato associations focus promotional efforts at retail buyers

03/08/2011 11:17:28 AM
Susie Cable

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.


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