The Idaho Potato Commission in Eagle, ID, which has been exhibiting at the
Produce Marketing Association's foodservice expo for "at least the 21 years"
that Don Odiorne has been with the commission, will be there again this year
at the Aug. 1 expo in Monterey, CA.
“What we are featuring at the booth is a mini-version of what we did at the
National Restaurant [Association] Show,” said Mr. Odiorne, the commission’s
vice president of foodservice. At the NRA show, which was held May 21-24 in
Chicago, “we introduced a new web site that is targeted towards a younger
The web site features videos “centered around the antics and the adventures”
of an animated potato daredevil character called “Stunt Tater” along with his
coach, his girlfriend, a sports “Comment Tater” and several other characters.
There are six episodes on the web site, in which “Stunt Tater” undertakes
various daring feats such as walking a tightrope, high diving, running an
obstacle course and jumping across a volcano. Each entertaining episode is
sponsored by a different potato dish, such as “parmesan fried Idaho potatoes,
brought to you by the Idaho Potato Commission.”
“We will have the episodes playing” at the booth at the foodservice show and
will also be giving out premiums,” Mr. Odiorne said.
The same approach was used at the NRA show “as a way to see if we couldn’t
attract crowds, … and we certainly accomplished that.” In addition, “we gave
away some potato stress balls that are in the shapes of the characters” as well
as some beverage coasters featuring “Stunt Tater” and his coach. “At the
National Restaurant [Association] show, we gave out approximately 9,600 of
the stress balls,” he said. “We really had some good success with attracting
attention and trying to get our point across that we are heavily involved in
social media,” as the videos are also on YouTube and Digg and “are getting
posted on Dailymotion … in addition to being on our regular Idahopotato.com
The “Spud Tater” videos are only one example of the Idaho Potato
Commission’s use of videos on social media. “Right now, the IPC has 70
videos on YouTube,” Mr. Odiorne said. Most of those are how-to videos with
preparation tips for various potato dishes, and the majority are for fresh
potatoes. The most popular features Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary
Ann on the long-running TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island and who has long been a
celebrity spokesperson for Idaho potatoes. In the video, she demonstrates
“how to boil fresh potatoes and then peel them, and that has nearly 11 million
But “the real work-horses of our video program are the short videos that we
have from Kendall College,” a culinary school in Chicago, he said. “There we
have several videos on preparation tips — both classic and unusual ways to fix
Mr. Odiorne said he also does a weekly blog on the Idahopotato.com web site
called Dr. Potato, on which he posts answers to “questions that we get here at
the office” both from consumers and from people in foodservice.”
The commission works directly with chefs in its foodservice programs,
according to Mr. Odiorne. “I truly think we are one of a very small handful of
associations, boards and commissions that actually go out to operator chains
and work with the corporate chefs and bring tools to them” and also bring in
“We work with them on menu ideas. These ideations, as we call them, have
been very successful” at getting Idaho potatoes on menus, he added.
Typically, “we try to present eight to 12 recipes where we actually go in the
kitchen and cook,” and the corporate chefs pick from the various recipes “the
ones that have the best potential in their menus.”
The commission just recently did such an event for Jason’s Deli,
headquartered in Beaumont, TX, with locations in 28 states. Others are
scheduled in July for Hard Rock Resorts, Golden Coral and Great Steak & Fries,
The commission is participating this year in several programs with Plate
magazine, “a foodservice magazine that is targeted toward chefs,” Mr.
Odiorne said. “Plate … is working with the culinary schools in various cities
around the country, and over the course of 12 months will visit six cities.”
They will “bring in chefs that prepare recipes” featured in the magazine.
Idaho potatoes are one of several non-competitive sponsors of the program.
“We typically get anywhere from 50 to 75 chefs” at these events.”
The chefs “sit in on presentations where other chefs are preparing food, then
divide into teams and go into the kitchens at the culinary school” where they
are “charged with preparing four different challenges” — appetizer, side dish,
entre and dessert — using ingredients from furnished “market baskets” that
include Idaho potatoes and other ingredients, he explained.
The commission also engages in various activities with distributors, and “we
are encouraging our field staff to do seminars on potatoes,” Mr. Odiorne said. Participants are mostly distributor sales representatives. “We have a half-
dozen already planned for the fall” and hope to increase that. Anyone
interested in participating should sign up right away, “because we need some
advanced time to be able to plan these … . What we are finding” is that after
attending one of the seminars, “the DSR is a lot more comfortable in selling
potatoes” and is more familiar with “the different varieties and various usages”
and is also “familiar with our tools.”