Idaho potato industry split on size issue - The Packer

Idaho potato industry split on size issue

10/21/2011 09:49:00 AM
Coral Beach

Coral BeachThe session on whether to increase the pack size minimum drew the largest crowd of any of the workshops at the IGSA conference in early September.The Idaho potato community is split like a baked russet when it comes to the question of whether to increase the minimum pack size from 4 ounce to 5 ounces per potato.

Discussions about the change have been ongoing for about a year. The split is not along grower/shipper/processor lines. People in all aspects of the industry have strong opinions for and against making the change, said Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer for the Idaho Potato Commission, Eagle.

The commission paid for intensive consumer research on the issue earlier this year. Results of that research likely will not help the industry insiders come to a consensus.

“The consumers couldn’t tell us,” Muir said, explaining that focus groups in six cities resulted in a mixed bag of results.

“What we do know is that consumers want Idaho potatoes. If the sizes they want are not available in bags, they just go to the bulk bins and pick out what they want.”

Without a clear verdict from consumers, Muir said the commission needs more industry input. The commission will not make a recommendation, but commission officials and the leadership of the Idaho Grower Shipper Association, Idaho Falls, say unless the industry as a whole wants to change it probably won’t happen.

Muir plans to give detailed presentations of the research projects, which included an online survey of thousands of people in addition to the 112 in the focus groups, at the IPC annual Whistle Stop Tour in November.

The Whistle Stop is scheduled for Nov. 16 at the Hilton Gardens Inn in Idaho Falls. Muir will present the research findings at an 11 a.m. luncheon and again at a 6 p.m. dinner. The event is free of charge for any Idaho grower, shipper or processor.

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