Getting folks to ‘fuel up’ with potatoes is aim of Potatoes USA’s Dritlein
The potato industry has made a big push to get more potatoes in the school breakfast and lunch programs in recent years. Rachael Dritlein of Potatoes USA is a big part of that push. As the global marketing manager, ingredient and foodservice, Dritlein constantly tours the U.S. and travels abroad in an effort to teach operators about the nutritional value and cost-effectiveness of potatoes. She is from the Chicago area and has a master’s in dietetics from Eastern Illinois University.
Could you share a little about your background prior to joining PUSA?
I am a registered dietitian and I’ve worked in healthcare and restaurants all my life. In the past, I’ve worked for contract companies in hospitals. I managed the cafeterias, planning everything from menus to marketing. In addition to running the cafeterias and coffee shops, I managed all of the Chicagoland retail managers. I have also taught at Eastern Illinois University, teaching foodservice systems to undergraduates.
What attracted you to working in the food industry?
Food is something that everyone needs. Food has the power to heal people both physically and mentally. I am amazed with what food can do and knew I wanted to be able to play a part in the industry.
You’re one of four global marketing managers at Potatoes USA. What is the primary focus of your role?
Ultimately, my focus is to get more people to eat more potatoes in more ways. I do this through managing two programs, the ingredient and school foodservice program. The Ingredient program, both domestically and internationally, purpose is to get food manufacturers to develop more products with U.S. potatoes. We do this by getting them to understand that potatoes are a highly functional nutrient-dense ingredient that is beloved by consumers. The school foodservice program focuses on working with K-12 foodservice operators and teachers to create future generations of potato lovers. We do this by fostering relationships to drive volume and diversifying potatoes on menus.
What are some of the projects you’re working on?
So many projects! The biggest one this year has focused on helping consumers more easily fuel up in their day-to-day lives by concentrating research innovation on performance foods. Innovative potato concepts have been created with athletes and active individuals in mind. In each formulation, potatoes play a key, irreplaceable role. Potatoes add flavor, improved texture, increased yield, convenience and nutrition wherever they appear. Concepts include performance bars, portable potato poppers, toaster pasty, potato electrolyte gel, potato performance bowls and even a sports drink!
How much of your time do you spend on the road?
I often travel several times a month to various events and conferences around the globe promoting potatoes. Yet even when I am at home, I am representing in my Potatoes Power Performance gear which always generates conversations. To my friends and family, I am known as the “potato queen,” as potatoes always seem to get brought up in conversation when I’m around.
What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?
I love to dice them up and sauté them until they are nice and crispy. Then I add fresh kale, spicy breakfast sausage and fried eggs, seasoned to perfection served with a Cajun aioli. My favorite go-to breakfast.
What do you enjoy doing away from work?
I like to keep fit by practicing kickboxing and CrossFit to be both mentally and physically strong. I got married last fall in the mountains of Colorado, which still keeps me plenty busy. Otherwise I am relaxing at home with a good book and my fur babies — two Bengal cats who are my everything.