At the annual Idaho Grower Shipper Association convention, held from Aug. 30-Sept. 1, the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) reviewed its marketing initiatives and laid out plans for the upcoming year.
Speaking at the Aug. 31 industry breakfast, IPC President Frank Muir detailed past successes the commission had experienced. Among those were standing up to the trendy low-carb diets that took aim squarely at potatoes a decade ago, and more recently combating the locavore movement.
Return of the Idaho Potato Bowl
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, which will be played for the seventh time in 2017, marked another marketing victory for Idaho potatoes, said Muir, bringing national recognition — and millions of dollars’ worth of exposure — to the state’s spuds.
“We estimate that we receive $13.5 million in value from the media exposure for the investment of about $450,000.”
“That’s quite a return on investment.”
A new potato variety for the Big Idaho Potato Truck tour
But perhaps the crown jewel of the IPC’s marketing campaign has been the Big Idaho Potato Truck tour, which has a giant replica of an Idaho Russet traversing the country, raising both awareness of Idaho potatoes and money for charities.
After having completed its sixth cross-country tour, the original steel potato will be replaced with a lighter and slightly smaller version made of fiberglass.
“It had gotten road-worn.”
“When we first launched it, it was supposed to be a one-time tour. But it was so popular that we couldn’t take it off the road. People everywhere loved it.”
Muir said the more streamlined version will have several advantages, including being much lighter and more durable. Also, since it will be slightly smaller, it will avoid the oversized load restrictions levied upon the original.
Finally, the potato has the ability to glow at night, adding more intrigue and allure to the giant spud.
The IPC will continue its television campaign supporting the giant potato. When consumers last saw the truck, grower Mark Coombs and his bloodhound had finally found it and brought it home. The campaign continues with a new twist, which will be revealed Sept. 22 during the Boise State-Virginia football game.
'Grown in Idaho' expands to the Frozen Isle
The “Grown in Idaho” seal that appears on packages of fresh Idaho potatoes will make a debut on the frozen side, said Muir, who announced that Lamb Weston will launch a frozen retail line bearing that seal.
Muir said the development is the culmination of an eight- to 10-year project.
“This is very exciting.”
“Lamb Weston did research that confirmed the concept is strong and that there is a need for a frozen Idaho brand at retail.”
“The launch will include seven items that are 100 percent grown in Idaho. Lamb Weston is putting more money behind this than any previous program and it will support it with television ads nationwide.”
“Programming will launch in October and the rest will come in January.”
Emphasis on quality
On a more serious note, Muir announced a new “Big Idaho Potato Harvest Meeting” to be held Nov. 14 at the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel & Event Center in Fort Hall, where growers and others involved in the industry will gather to discuss quality issues that have occurred the past couple of seasons.
Muir said Idaho is a premium potato brand that deserves a premium price, but growers must do their part to keep the quality of the potatoes up to par. This meeting will bring together growers with IPC field staff and other professionals to discuss how to achieve that goal.
Of the upcoming season, Muir said acreage will be down about 15,000 this year to just shy of 308,000. He said he is comfortable with that number, and “it should be a great year for growers.”