USPB, Idaho Potato Commission at odds over national brand

The use by retailers and shippers of the U.S. Potato Board's (USPB) "Potatoes: Goodness Unearthed" mark as a dominant brand element on packaging has resulted in complaints from the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) that the use of the nutritional message can be construed as a national trademark by consumers and competes against Idaho's own "Grown in Idaho" trademark.

Adopted in 2007, "Potatoes: Goodness Unearthed" is the trademarked slogan used by USPB in its campaign to inform consumers of the nutritional benefits of potatoes in the daily diet of Americans.

Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission, said that the recent use of the "Potatoes: Goodness Unearthed" slogan by shippers and retailers as the dominant brand competes with the "Grown in Idaho" trademark.

Muir said USPB has not been vigilant in keeping what was to be strictly a nutritional campaign from developing into a national trademark and confusing consumers about the origination of the potatoes they are purchasing.

"Our research confirms that people, when given a choice, 80 percent will pick Idaho," Muir said. "Consumers really see potatoes through the eyes of Idaho."

Muir expressed concern that with the increasing use of "Potatoes: Goodness Unearthed" by shippers and retailers as a brand, consumers would believe they are purchasing Idaho potatoes without seeing the "Grown in Idaho" seal.

Muir said that the IPC's position is supported by the Idaho Grower Shipper Association, United Potato Growers of Idaho and the Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative.

"All of these organizations have come to the IPC with motions supporting our position that the "Goodness Unearthed" mark should not be used at retail and retail bags," Muir said.

The crux of the problem is that some states are using the "Goodness Unearthed" trademark covering almost the entire face of their bags.

"You see this giant ‘Potatoes: Goodness Unearthed,' which is basically saying that's the name of the brand," Muir said.

Muir said he wants to see stronger control of the trademark by the USPB and that the board has not controlled the use of its brand.

"We're not asking that other state's stop using it on their bags, because it's already out the door now," he said. "We are asking that the USPB control its use. If they have a national trademark then they are responsible for controlling its use so that it's no larger than a certain size."

Tim O'Connor, president and CEO of USPB, said that he has clearly heard Idaho's concerns about the misuse of the brand.

"We never intended to create a brand," O'Connor said. "It is a nutrition campaign and so their concern that it is misused as a brand is a legitimate concern and one we are willing to address."

O'Connor said that "Potatoes: Goodness Unearthed" was launched in 2007 as an industry tool to provide a positive message to consumers of the nutritional benefits of potatoes.

"The reason we use ‘Goodness Unearthed,' it resonated very well with consumers," O'Connor said. "Simply put, what consumers got from ‘Goodness Unearthed' was ‘potatoes are good for me, potatoes are a better choice over rice and pasta.'"

Getting the message as often as possible to the consumer in as many times and places has been part of the USPB's strategy. Use by others extends the reach and frequency of the positive message about potatoes, he said.

O'Connor does not dispute that some shippers use has resulted in the nutritional slogan being misused as a brand by shippers instead of the original intent as a nutrition message.

"We're working on correcting that situation and we can fix that one," O'Connor said. "The broader issue that remains in play is IPC's vision of what they believe is an appropriate use at retail and whether our board agrees with that or not," O'Connor said.

O'Connor said he hoped for a resolution between the two organizations.

"We certainly want this issue resolved. We're working towards that. Our board will be addressing the concerns we have heard from Idaho and we'll be looking for a solution," he said.


Originally posted Wednesday, Jul. 13, 2011