Industry Spotlight

Market Report


What was your favorite part of the Potato Expo?

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Could be blue skies

I've just returned from the National Potato Expo in Las Vegas and the general consensus among growers at the expo is that 2010 was a vast improvement from 2009 – and 2011 could be even better.

Part of the positive assessment for 2011 can be found in the current commodities market. With world demand for grain, specifically wheat and corn, on the rise that could keep potato acres in check this year.

Other factors include an increased demand in the chip sector and a GRI that at the very least covers growers' cost. Growers aren't getting rich out there but at least they're not losing money this year.

I'll be at the Idaho Potato Conference next week and the Washington/Oregon conference at the end of the month. I'll be updating my findings on my Facebook account and online at


Spud Gear
Market research refines target audience for potatoes, new ad campaign to follow

Market researcher, Kate Thomson and advertising account director Laura Slavec of the Sterling-Rice Group, out of Boulder, Colo., discuss the “refined” Linda, the prototypical consumer target audience developed for the USPB in its efforts to restore the potato’s prominence at the American dinner table in the 21st century.

Conceived in 2007, the original Linda was broadly defined as a woman with children at home. During the past three years market research has more sharply developed and refined the concept of Linda, honing in on her values and core beliefs.

During part one of the video interview, Thomson and Slavec discuss the new Linda, how she has morphed into a highly refined concept with, “just like Mom attitudes.” In part two they discuss the new advertising campaign that will debut in February.


Market Report: Major processors create alliance to promote fries & potatoes

Industry Spotlight

One of the big stories to come out of this year's 2011 Potato Expo in Las Vegas last week was the announcement by Frank van Schaayk, McCain Foods Ltd. regional CEO of the United States and South America, of the creation of the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE).

The five major potato processors, Lamb Weston, Simplot, McCain, Heinz and Cavendish, along with the National Potato Council and the U.S. Potato Board, have decided to fund researchers and educate consumers to the health benefits of eating potatoes and french fries through the creation of APRE, van Schaayk said.

"I believe and my colleagues at other companies and within the industry believe that we are at a pivotal point in both the history of the potato industry in terms of making some decisions and taking some action as an industry that will literally change our future," van Schaayk said while meeting with the media prior to his general session presentation Jan. 6.

Van Schaayk said that according to USPB statistics, potato and french fry consumption have dropped 18 percent over the past 10 years.

Van Schaayk said that a major factor in the above mentioned decline is due to concerns over the increasing rate of obesity among children and adults in the United States

"And unfortunately," van Schaayk said, "our products, potatoes and to a larger extent, french fries, end in the crosshairs of that discussion."

To combat the current perception that potatoes and french fries are not healthy foods, van Schaayk said that the five major processors along with NPC and USPB have concluded that, "frequently the opinions that are formed and the pictures that are painted are based on a science that is either incomplete or no science at all."

"It's a lack of information, adequate information that has reached the people who are forming these opinions," van Schaayk said.

"It's an important time for us to galvanize the industry and to tell our story," van Schaayk said, "to tell a fact-based story, around potatoes, potato nutrition, and in fact many of the changes that have occurred in processing potatoes over the last decade that reposition processing potatoes as products that can rightfully take their place in a balanced, enjoyable diet for American consumers.

Van Schaayk said that the APRE's message would be based on solid science and solid research.

"Our message will be that based on our nutritional profiles of potatoes and fries today, with healthier oils, with the way processing takes place, potatoes and fries, today, justify a rightful place in a balanced consumer diet in the U.S.," said van Schaayk.

Calling it a quest to educate consumers, van Schaayk said that the five processors and the NPC and the USPB began discussions in May to begin a concerted effort to promote and inform the public of the nutritional benefits of the potato and french fries along with the changes over the past 20 years in process preparation of fries and the changes in the oils previously used to cook the fries.

Van Schaayk said that they have a three-committee structure and are currently searching for a person to lead the Alliance.


Product Highlight: Milestone

Milestone Equipment is rolling out a new, redesigned and larger piler for 2011. The piler comes with wagon wheel steering and the elevator has a reduced incline helping prevent rollback bruising.

The Milestone piler comes in 24-, 30-, 36- and 42-inch conveyor systems. The 42-inch piler is a new Milestone model. The pilers come with a 49 foot expandable boom.

Shane Mitchell, sales and service representative for Milestone gives you a video tour of Milestone's redesigned piler.