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Show Some Potato Love

February doesn’t have much going for it. It’s the shortest of the twelve months and is buried near the end of winter, when all people want is a warm day and sunshine (at least here in the Midwest). But the month does have Valentine’s Day. The occasion has usurped much of January in recent years, with red hearts, chocolates and teddy bears appearing in stores not too long after the new year starts.

The “holiday” takes the No. 1 spot for flower sales during the year (with the rose the most popular), 10 percent of engagements happen on Valentine’s Day and more than 190 million greeting cards change hands, according to the U.S. Greeting Card Association. What’s interesting about that number is that men account for only 15 percent of card sales, which means that either women buy cards for many people, or there are a lot of men in trouble on Feb. 15.

The root of Valentine’s Day is usually traced to St. Valentine, who in 270 A.D. was sentenced to death for refusing to renounce his faith. In a letter thanking the jailer’s daughter for her kindness during his imprisonment, he signed “from your Valentine.” The tradition has grown to a day when people can show their affection for their significant other (unless you’re in school -– then you’re required to give a valentine to everyone).

What sane man would give his wife or girlfriend a sack of potatoes on Feb. 14? Not too many, I assure you. But as sales of potato products are increasing in supermarkets, I think shoppers need to be reminded of the healthful attributes, just as Feb. 14 reminds thick-headed men to tell their wives how they feel (and a card usually says it so much better, doesn’t it?).

The International Year of the Potato is a good reminder of the role the potato plays in the nutrition of Third World and developing nations, but U.S. shoppers still need more encouragement. Is it outlandish to have a day devoted to potatoes? No more so than giving my wife chocolates and a mushy card on Valentine’s Day. This industry is doing an excellent job marketing new products consumers want, and if we could also get people fired up about potatoes, there would be many profitable years to come.

Scott

Originally posted Monday, Jan. 28, 2008

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