SUN VALLEY, ID — The Idaho potato industry enjoyed success in 2012-13 and finished on strong markets in spite of a large crop characterized by a preponderance of large-sized potatoes.
That success was achieved largely due to tactical promotional activities of the Idaho Potato Commission, most notably a jumbo promotion launched earlier in the season than ever before to restore balance to the size mix in the market, according to Frank Muir, president of the IPC, Idaho Potato Commission President Frank Muir speaking at the Idaho Grower Shippers Association Convention Aug. 29.and other speakers at the 85th Annual Convention of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association, held here Aug. 28-30.
Muir, speaking at the industry breakfast on Thursday, Aug. 29, reviewed the achievements of the commission’s promotional and marketing activities in the consumer, retail, foodservice and international market development sectors during the 2012-13 marketing year and outlined plans for the coming season, which will be largely a continuation of the past year’s successful programs.
Although prices for Idaho potatoes dropped shortly after harvest on news that the crop was expected to be large — due to a 25,000-acre increase in plantings combined with favorable growing weather — prices began improving immediately after the announcement of the bin promotion, Muir said.
Bin promotions are not something the commission does every year but are reserved for special situations when they are needed to give a boost in movement to a particular potato size, whether large or small, that is out of balance with normal market demand, he explained.
One of the major successes of the past year was the Potato Lovers Month, a retail display contest the commission has been running in February for many years. Some 4,000 retail stores participated in 2013, more than double any previous year.
The commission’s giant potato truck, a flatbed big-rig on which is mounted a massive replica of an Idaho potato, drew enormous media attention during a national tour in 2012 and was currently in the midst of a second national tour.
A television advertising campaign, aired on national cable television and at various sports events sponsored by the IPC such as the famous Idaho Potato Bowl, features an actual Idaho potato farmer in the field, holding a poster of the “missing” truck and crew, and asking viewers, “If you see them, please tell them to come home,” as fast cuts show the truck at recognizable landmarks around the country and the crew having a grand time.
Muir said that the ad has received much favorable attention. He read several unsolicited letters the commission has received from people who thought the ad was great, fun, humorous and refreshingly clean and decent.
For the coming marketing season, a new ad has been taped, scheduled to debut at a Boise State football game broadcast Saturday, Aug. 31, Muir said. It features the same grower setting off in his pickup truck, with his dog, across the country in search of the still-missing potato truck and crew.
Educational workshops at the convention, held on Wednesday, Aug. 28, dealt with a number of critical industry issues. Topics included automation in the sorting and packing of potatoes, packaging material, markets and innovations, a review of motor carrier issues and a discussion of what new federal health insurance laws will require of employers.
An industry luncheon Wednesday featured a presentation by representatives from Union Pacific, who gave a historical overview of the relationship the Idaho potato industry has had with the railroad and also talked about the close ties Union Pacific has always had with Sun Valley from its inception.
Always a major part of the IGSA convention is the annual golf tournament, which was scheduled this year for Friday, Aug. 30, followed that evening by a banquet and presentation of awards.
Mark Klompien, president of IGSA, told The Produce News Aug. 29 that attendance at the convention, with walk-in registrations, had already topped 310, more than the previous year, in spite of concerns that major wildfires in the vicinity during the past several weeks might keep some people away. Fortunately, before the event opened, the fires were mostly contained, and with prevailing winds carrying smoke away from the Sun Valley area, the air was clear and conditions at the resort beautiful.