Column: February a month for potatoes to shine
February is high on the list of the Idaho Potato Commission’s (IPC) favorite months. Why? It’s American Heart Month and Potato Lovers’ Month, making it the perfect time to promote the Idaho potato brand.
Years ago, February was considered to be one of slowest months for retail potato sales. Unlike other months with big dining occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Memorial Day, February didn’t offer a natural potato push. In fact, sales in the entire produce department tended to slump. We didn’t see this as a problem, as it was an opportunity.
Over the years our February marketing campaign has grown to target retailers, consumers and journalists, ultimately reaching as many people as possible with our key messages:
- Idaho potatoes are America’s favorite vegetable.
- Idaho potatoes are certified by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy food.
- To be sure you’re buying genuine Idaho potatoes, look for the “Grown in Idaho” seal.
The survey says…
This year we worked with research company Kelton Global to find out exactly how consumers feel about Idaho potatoes. We asked Americans age 18 and older to pick their favorite vegetable, and Idaho potatoes topped the chart! More than a quarter of Americans (26 percent) — nearly 68 million people — said Idaho potatoes are their favored choice, followed by broccoli (19 percent), corn (14 percent) and leafy greens (14 percent).
If you’re wondering how folks prefer to eat their spuds, mashed was the hands down winner at 27 percent, followed by french fries (23 percent) and baked (22 percent).
- More millennials than older generations (29 percent versus 24 percent) cite mashed potatoes as their favorite way to eat spuds.
- 37 percent of Northeasterners say mashed is their favorite way to consume potatoes, which is much higher than the 24 percent who said so in other regions.
In 2011, Idaho potatoes were certified by the American Heart Association as a heart healthy food. We sought this certification mark when potatoes were getting a bad rap for their nutritional profile. Fortunately perceptions are changing and celebrities like Dr. Oz are telling folks to “end the war on potatoes.” We’re proud of the certification mark and take advantage of every opportunity possible to promote it. Many shippers have the seal printed on their bags of spuds, the Big Idaho Potato Truck has the Heart Check mark prominently displayed on the trailer, and we have a section on the website devoted to recipes that have been reviewed by the American Heart Association and certified as heart healthy.
This year we added two new recipes, promoted them to food/nutrition journalists and shared them with our social media followers.
Potato Lover’s Month retail display contest
Potato Lover’s Month actually started 28 years ago when we launched the first national retail display contest with retailers across the country competing against each other to build the most creative and eye-catching display of Idaho potatoes possible. The promotion was designed to attract consumers to the produce aisle and motivate retailers. It worked! The first year we had a few hundred entries and it’s grown every year. 2018 was our biggest year with 5,266 entries from retailers, all vying for $150,000 in cash and prizes.
Our month-long Potato Lover’s campaign reaches hundreds of millions of consumers at many different touch points — in the produce aisles, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, in newspapers and online news sources, etc. Most importantly, this targeted campaign is designed to effectively communicate our key messages.
While February can be a dreary month for some, it’s our month to shine.
— Frank Muir is the president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission. Its mission is contribute to the economic welfare of the State of Idaho, its potato growers and other potato-related businesses.