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The Medium is the Message

In journalism school, we learned about Marshall McLuhan – a Canadian writer and communications theorist. McLuhan taught that “the medium is the message.” How the message is conveyed is just as important as the message. The form chosen for the message also will affect how that message is perceived.

So, as we talk about packaging and industry innovations this month, I’m excited to say that the medium – the packaging – is helping to spread a wonderful message about potatoes. In this case, the packaging is the potato.

Microwavable packaging and recipes and single-serve and gourmet packages are showing consumers that the potato industry is trying to step out of the commodity realm and into the high-value, high-excitement world of convenience.

As consumers see these messages, they see that potatoes aren’t just the staple of a meat-and-potatoes diet, long forgotten. Instead, these new packages show what many of us already know to be true. Potatoes are fun. Potatoes are hip. Potatoes are easy. And besides that, potatoes are good for us.

Every time I step into a store I am excited to see new offerings in all produce categories – not just potatoes. From fresh-cut to pre-cooked to open-and-eat and grab-and-go, produce is beginning to create waves in stores by listening to consumer demand. And until recently, potato-industry wave makers have seemed few and far between and slow to bring their products to the table.

When I visit the store and see a new potato product I want to try, I buy it on the spot. Just the other day I picked up some pre-cut, pre-cooked cubed potatoes. They were great. I cooked them when a friend came to visit, and she was pretty impressed that I took the time to wash, cube and cook potatoes for her. I thought about taking all the credit. But I didn’t. Instead, I encouraged her to go to the store and pick some up for herself.

I know the products exist because I’ve seen them at trade shows and read about them in news releases. We’re even been featuring them in Spudman. But what about everyone else? We need to show all consumers that the industry is getting more and more innovative every day. It’s obvious growers and packers have the medium down – the new packaging is great. And as these products begin to slowly appear in stores, I know consumers will literally eat them up. It’s just a matter of getting the message out.

I’d love to hear how you’re getting the message out to consumers about your products. What medium are you using to attract new consumers? And how are you spreading the message? Let me know at editor@spudman.com.

Originally posted Saturday, Apr. 7, 2007

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