Consumers weren't the only ones professing their love for Idaho spuds during the annual Potato Lover's Month retail celebration in February. Supermarket chains and independent retailers alike submitted 4,049 entries in the Idaho Potato Commission's 2013 retail display contest — the highest total ever in the competition's 22 years and more than double the average number of entries over the past eight years.
"We welcomed several major new retailers who participated in the contest for the first time this year, giving them a chance to show off the phenomenal creativity of their produce managers," Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail/international for the IPC, said in a press release. "In addition, this year's high-quality crop of Idaho potatoes was widely available to retail markets. We also tapped into the consumer craze for all things bacon by adding Hormel Real Bacon Bits as a cross-merchandising partner in the displays."
"We were excited and honored to partner with one of the most well-known brands in the produce department," Tony Horvath, produce manager at Hormel Foods, added in the press release. "Idaho potatoes with Hormel Bacon Toppings are a natural meal solution that resonates with consumers."
Potato passion was the theme of more than one winning display in the 2013 contest, which awarded more than $150,000 in cash and prizes, including a Swiss Army backpack with padded computer pockets for everyone who entered.
Marsh Supermarket on West 86th Street in Indianapolis took top honors among stores with 6-9 cash registers for its "Fall in Love with Idaho Potatoes" display, complete with a floor-to-ceiling castle guarded by inflatable Mylar Spuddy Buddies.
Kirkpatrick's Foodland in South Pittsburg, TN, captured first place in the 1-5 registers category for its display proclaiming that America's new "Idol" is Idaho potatoes.
And Sweetbay Supermarket in Wesley Chapel, FL, the first place winner for stores with 10 or more registers, paid homage to consumers' love affair with the Great Big Idaho Potato Truck's cross-country tour last summer by re-creating the super spud-mobile for its display -- at a size considerably less than life-size, of course.
"Customer-pleasing displays like these do more than drive Idaho potato sales," Jamie Bowen, retail marketing manager for the IPC, added in the press release. "Many produce managers tell us that the displays help boost sales for their entire produce department during what can be a slow month. And retailers have a chance to win substantial cash prizes, including a matching cash prize for the store's category manager."
Within each store category, entrants were eligible to win $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place, $750 for third place, $500 for fourth place and $250 for fifth place.
The IPC also awarded 100 Honorable Mention prizes of $100 to displays chosen from the remaining entries.
The military contest was broken down into two categories (k1, k2) and (k3, k4, k5), and military commissaries competed in their own IPC display contest for the top prize of a trophy and a trip to the Produce Marketing Association's 2013 annual convention in New Orleans.
Second place winners for each category were awarded $500 in customer gift certificates/gift cards and a plaque, while and third place winners received $250 in customer gift certificates/gift cards and a plaque.
To enter the contests, retailers and military commissaries had to create a display for their produce department featuring Idaho potatoes and Hormel Real Bacon Bits, plus special-themed point-of-sale material from the IPC and Hormel. The display was required to be up in the store's produce section for at least one week between Jan. 28 and March 1, 2013.