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Potato commission partners with Hormel bacon toppings for Potato Lovers Month

BOISE, ID — The Idaho Potato Commission’s retail programs for the 2012-13 marketing year are “not that dissimilar from historical components,” according to Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail and international marketing. Many of the programs are “things that we have done historically that we continue to do,” although they may fine-tuned, he said. “The reason we are doing them is because they have proven very effective.”

February Potato Lovers Month, now in its 22nd year, is a prime example of that, he said. That program, which involves offering ad allowances to retailers “of a certain size,” as well as a popular retail display contest, continues to be very successful. “We have been averaging 2,500 displays for the past several years.”

This year, the commission has a new partner for Potato Lovers Month. Mrs. Dash has been “a fabulous partner for the last three years” but has been sold to another company that didn’t understand what Potato Lover’s Month was, so “we moved on to a new partner,” Hormel bacon toppings. It is “a perfect tie-in” because so many people already put bacon bits on their potatoes, so “I am anticipating that the transition from one partner to the other will be a positive,” he said.

For Potato Lovers Month, the commission will also be “offering more customer-specific contests this year than we ever have before,” Mr. Pemsler said. “We go to a number of customers who participate” and offer them an internal contest. If the chain can get half of its stores to enter, the entries will all be entered into the national contest as well, and five winners within the chain will be guaranteed, even if none of them win the national contest.

“We have found that a very good way to facilitate more involvement,” he went ont to say. “We hope to increase the number of retailers who participate in these internal contests.”

The Potato Lovers Month program will be “otherwise similar” to what it has been in the past,” except that “we will, of course, have a new premium or prize” for participating stores, he said. Last year, the premium was an iPod docking station. “This year, we will have something equally enticing for stores to participate in Potato Lovers Month.” He was, Mr. Pemsler said, “not prepared to announce yet” what the promotion will be.

In other retail activities, the commission has a new trade advertising campaign this year. “We are moving away from the comic books” that have been so popular for the last four years, he said, “not because it didn’t work” but because research showed it was time to move on to something else. “We did it for four years and had our super-hero guys for two years.” But as with “any good campaign, you need to know … when it is time to do something different.”

The commission “actually did research to see the impact of our historical campaign,“ and that research showed that retailers considered the promotion to be “the most memorable campaign” the commission has done at retail to have been the “What’s wrong with this picture” campaign.

In that campaign, the commission’s trademarked “Grown in Idaho” seal was placed on produce other than Idaho potatoes, and the ad headline read, “What’s wrong with this picture?” The print campaign was supported by delivery to retailers of squeezable rubber fruits with the “Grown in Idaho” seal on them. Many retailers still have those “squeeze fruits” on their desks, he said.

“We decided to come back with something like that” for the 2012-2013 ad campaign, “but with a twist,” in that it will involve more exotic things than were used in the first go-round.

In addition, “we will continue to have our field team call on every retailer of any size” in the United States, Mr. Pemsler said.

Also, “we are launching a new category management program — a new deck updated with a lot of new findings and recommendations and things that will help retailers market, merchandise and increase their profit in the potato category.”

While “we certainly hope that [the retailers] focus on Idaho,” he continued, “the category management initiative is category-wide. We focus on increasing [retailer] profitability. We help them increase the profitability of the potato category because we know when they do that, Idaho is going to be a part of that.”

The new category management program will probably launch the first of October, he said.