SUN VALLEY, Idaho — The Big Idaho Potato Truck will be back for another year of rolling promotions for what is expected to be a high-quality potato crop, Idaho Potato Commission president and CEO Frank Muir told attendees at the 2019 Idaho Grower Shippers Association Convention.
In previewing the commission’s marketing and promotion plans at the Sun Valley meeting, Muir said the 2019 crop was on track for good quality on slightly fewer acres.
The 2018 Idaho crop enjoyed record yields, and that extra supply helped meet demand from Canada and Midwest growing regions caused by shorter crops in those areas.
For 2019, Muir said potato acres in Idaho are expected to be down about 1%, and prices are holding strong.
“We’ve had all sorts of different weather challenges this year, but all in all, indications are that we will have a generally good quality crop,” he said.
While crop conditions may limit the volume of big potatoes, Muir said there are reports they are sizing well late in the growing season.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported shipping point prices for Idaho russet norkotahs ranged from $13-14 for 50-pound cartons of 90s to $21-22 per carton for size 40s.
At the same date a year ago, shipping point prices ranged from $8 to $11 per carton for 90s and $10-11 per carton for 40s.
Keep on trucking
Muir said the Big Idaho Potato Truck, which was first used in 2012 in what was thought to be a one-year journey to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the commission, continues to draw crowds and media attention. In its 2019 tour, the truck traveled more than 35,000 miles and participated in 50 events, nine of which had more than 100,000 people and three of which had 300,000 people. A new commercial highlighting the truck and “Farmer Mark” will be released this fall.
Since the Big Idaho Potato Truck was introduced in 2012, it has traveled more than 250,000 miles and visited 22,000 cities in all 48 contiguous states, he said.
“Really, there is no way to measure the media value of everybody’s cell phone having a picture of the Big Idaho Potato Truck, and that they sent it to all their family members as well,” Muir said.
Muir said the commission’s long-running superhero Fabulous Field Force campaign will be retired in favor of a data-based approach to retail messaging. The “superhero” campaign started with a generic concept in 2008 and was introduced with the commission’s retail representatives as a team of superheroes in the 2010-11 season. Through the years, the campaign featured bobblehead figures of the Field Force crew and big displays at trade shows. The campaign was “a lot of fun,” Muir said, but the commission wants to “focus on the facts.”
By using retail scan data and analysis of Idaho potato ad performance, commission staff will educate retailers on each chain’s performance compared to the overall market, Muir said. In media messages, the commission plans to highlight research that shows 72% of consumers would choose Idaho potatoes over other potatoes, he said.
The Idaho Potato Commission also will be doing follow-up testing and trials on a high-graphics bulk bin display, Muir said. Research conducted last year revealed a 22% category sales increase when a secondary display of potatoes is present. The display bins feature the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check graphic, showing that Idaho potatoes are certified by the group as a heart-healthy food.
For foodservice, Muir said the commission plans to continue to work with distributors on performance-based promotions, in addition to education and training by the commission’s foodservice representatives.