Potatoes go on marketing offense
Updated: Wednesday, March 06, 2013 10:50 AM
By MATTHEW WEAVER
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Consumer attitudes toward potatoes are improving, according to U.S. Potato Board leaders.
Connell, Wash., grower Rob Davis, co-chair of the international marketing committee for the board, and board CEO Tim O'Connor provided an update on potato marketing efforts in the U.S. and abroad during the Washington Oregon Potato Conference in Kennewick, Wash.
Their presentation included:
* The board is working with USDA and the National Potato Council to get fresh potatoes accepted past a 26-kilometer border into Mexico. Mexico's population is roughly 108 million, with only 5 million residents within the border area, Davis said.
"There is a huge opportunity to continue to export more fresh potatoes to that market once it becomes open," he said.
* The board made efforts with private voluntary organizations to add dehydrated potatoes to food aid programs. The first sale of dehydrated potatoes for food aid went through USDA in October 2012, Davis said.
He said there is a significant potential savings in freight and logistics, as dehydrated potatoes have a 7 to 1 ratio compared to corn and soybean meals used for aid, which have a 2 to 1 ratio.
"For every hundred pounds we're sending them, they're getting 700 pounds of digestible product," Davis said.
* The board uses the name "Linda" to refer to its target market, women aged 25-54 years old, with children under 18 living at home. The Linda demographic represents 40 percent of all fresh potato consumption.
"Linda shops and she prepares meals in seasons," Davis said. "As the seasons move on, her ideas and tendencies tend to change."
The board works to respond to those changes by offering products that will suit the seasonal mood. For example, Linda is back on track in September-October as school begins and looking for a quick, healthy meal for her children. In November-December, she's cooking to impress during the holidays. In January and February, she's working to focus after eating too much over the holidays.
* O'Connor said consumer attitudes toward potatoes as a healthful food option have improved. Negative attitudes are back to levels prior to the Atkins diet in 2002.
Consumers would have to agree potatoes are healthy, convenient, flavorable and fresh in order to be counted, O'Connor said, and nearly 25 percent of the target demographic agrees, at a level comparable to more than a decade ago.
* When fresh potatoes are in the shopping cart, shoppers spend 10 more minutes at the store and spend twice as much money, Davis said.
"Without fresh potatoes, (the average shopper) will roughly have 17 items in her cart; if she's got fresh potatoes, she's got 33 items," he said. "We've taken this information and portrayed it back to our partnerships with grocers that if potatoes are in front of more shoppers, we're going to sell more potatoes and you're going to sell more groceries."
U.S. Potato Board: www.uspotatoes.com