This year's Potato Lover’s Month contest winds down March 16, with display contest participants sending in photos to the Idaho Potato Commission through early April. In 2017, Community Market #590 in Greenfield, Ohio, won 1st place in the 1-5 cash register category. ( Idaho Potato Commission )

The Idaho Potato Commission’s Potato Lover’s Month promotion is so big that it lasts for two months.

Running Jan. 15 through March 16, the 2018 display contest features more than $150,000 in cash and prizes to competing merchandisers who create a display featuring Idaho potatoes and promotion partners Hormel Bacon Toppings and Hormel Chili.

Hormel Bacon Toppings has been a partner with the promotion for three years; Hormel Chili is a new partner this year.

Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail and international sales for the Idaho Potato Commission, said early reports about the contest are encouraging.

“Potato Lover’s Month appears to be very good this year, but candidly you never know until the end,” he said in late February. “We have had more retailers say they are going to do Potato Lovers Month promotions this year, but until you actually get the entries you don’t know,” he said.

The commission will receive pictures of the promotion from retailers through the end of March and beginning of April, Pemsler said.


Retail reception

Retail reception of the Idaho potato crop is strong, Pemsler said, with pricing up compared with a year ago.

Idaho shipping point prices for size 60 count russet potatoes on Feb. 23 were $10-12 per 50-pound carton, up from $6.75-7.50 per carton the same day last year. Size 100 count russets were $9-11 per carton, up from $6-7.50 per carton a year ago.

“This year we have seen more normal pricing, which is better for retailers than the past couple of years,” he said.

“It is better for farmers too, but better for retailers.”

Beyond Potato Lover’s Month, the Idaho Potato Commission has a number of promotion initiatives running throughout the season, with the ultimate overall goal of optimal category management.

Helping retailers “right-size” the category maximizes shelf allocation for profits.

With the innovations of varieties, packaged and value-added potatoes, microwaveable and flavored bags and trays and even fresh-cut options, retailers have more merchandising choices to consider than ever in the potato category.

Those items are critical to driving category growth, but Pemsler said retailers can’t forget Idaho russets.

“The reality is that (retailers) have under-represented profits and over-represented the new thing, the next thing,” he said.

“The problem is that retailers are making all their money on the russets but they are not putting enough of them out and making them visible enough,” he said.