Monday, March 18, 2013

Discover the Potato Board retail program

Potato board stresses health, convenience, nutrition messages

click image to zoomBree Liscinsky, Nielsen Perishables Group account manager, and Don Ladhoff, U.S. Potato Board retail program consultant present the USPB's retail outreach efforts during a domestic marketing session aTara SchupnerBree Liscinsky, Nielsen Perishables Group account manager, and Don Ladhoff, U.S. Potato Board retail program consultant present the USPB's retail outreach efforts during a domestic marketing session at the board's annual meeting March 14 in Colorado Springs.COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Even as it faces a medley of challenges, including the loss of longtime president Tim O’Connor and declining domestic consumption, the U.S. Potato Board is charging full steam ahead with its international outreach and domestic marketing efforts.
President and chief executive officer Tim O’Connor, who is departing the USPB for a new marketing group, Avocados from Mexico, set the tone early at the board’s 40th annual meeting March 14-15 by balancing cautious optimism with bluntness.
“I’m not going to filter this. I’m going to say it as I see it,” he said. “Fries and chips … those are on the hot list for causes of obesity. Every day, there are people who are blaming your products.”
After O’Connor’s presentation, board staff and consultants used breakout sessions — a new format this year — to brief attendees on the board’s efforts in public relations, retail programs, foodservice outreach, consumer advertising and marketing research.
Flavor, freshness, convenience
In each session, presenters stressed the importance of an integrated approach centering around the board’s hypothetical target consumer “Linda,” the wife and mother who makes the decisions about what to buy and cook for her family. Those decisions have changed over the years. Consequently, in order to get “Linda” to cook potatoes more often, the board’s campaign has to not only promote the nutritional qualities of potatoes, but also market quick and easy ways to cook them — a message emphasized across most of the breakout sessions.
“There is an opportunity to be more overt with our healthful messaging, especially among Lindas,” said Kate Thomson, senior research manager with the Sterling-Rice Group. “But health is not the only driver — we need to continue featuring flavor, freshness and convenience as well.”
“Awareness about the nutritional benefits of potatoes is still a struggle, and we’re keeping it at the foremost of our communications,” said Meredith Myers, USPB public relations manager.
The board’s investments in marketing and public relations efforts are well worth the money, Timothy Richards, a researcher at Arizona State University, said during a Friday presentation on the results of a five-year evaluation of the USPB, required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“With the development of other types of food, potatoes are always competing for ‘stomach share,’” Richards said, but the USPB programs are highly successful, with a more than 500% return on investment.
click image to zoomTara SchupnerBetween meetings and presentations, attendees at the U.S. Potato Board's annual meeting spent time networking, including Pete Ewing (from left), of Ewing Farms Inc., Big Lake, Minn.; Tom Wingard, of Wingard Farms, Elk River, Minn.; Mike Carter, USPB co-chairman of the domestic marketing committee, Rosholt, Wis.; and Duane Maatz, of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.In particular, the board’s retail and foodservice campaigns are garnering big bangs for their bucks, with retail programs producing a return of nearly $5 for each dollar the board spends and foodservice programs nearly $12.50 per dollar, Richards said.
Exports of U.S. potatoes also continue to be a bright spot in the industry, with the volume of potatoes leaving the country doubling from 2000 to 2012.
Fresh potatoes recently gained access to Thailand and Vietnam, and more than 30 retail promotion programs in other countries have increased sales of U.S. fresh potatoes by more than 200%, international marketing co-chairmen Rob Davis and Ritchey Toevs told attendees.
Sacrifice advice
However, Jerry Wright, president and CEO of United Potato Growers of America, brought things full circle on March 15 with a warning to members about the need for growers in all sectors (including frozen and dehydrated) to work together instead of encroaching on other sectors.
“Domestic consumption of fresh potatoes is declining … but production is increasing. Growers need to act responsibly in each sector to grow only what they’ve contracted to grow, he said. “Growers often say, ‘I’m not the problem.’ But you are. You’re the problem.”
Growers overproducing and then selling their excess into other sectors is hurting the industry as a whole, Wright said.
“Don’t produce extra potatoes and plan to sell them into other sectors. This is our industry’s problem, and we need to work together to fix it,” he said. “We need to unify behind common strategies and sacrifice together — everyone has to sacrifice our profits, sacrifice our autonomy, sacrifice our pride, and sacrifice our independence and freedom.”
Outgoing chairman Sid Staunton wrapped up his tenure on a positive note before turning over leadership to new chairman Rob Davis.
“We’re on the right path,” Staunton said. “We have many challenges, but with the right people, we can really change things.”
Staunton said he anticipates the search for a new CEO will take about 12 to 16 weeks.
O’Connor was also optimistic, saying he believes he leaves the USPB in good shape.
“We still have three years left on our Long Range Plan,” he said. “It’s already delivering meaningful results, and the new CEO will be able to come in and continue with those goals.”
Davis made it clear he plans to pick up where O’Connor and Staunton are leaving off.
The board’s administrative committee plans to meet Aug. 6 in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, The next annual meeting is set for March 12-13, 2014, again in Colorado Springs.

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Fresno Food Expo, a successful Exhibition !

Packer Daily

Food expo highlights San Joaquin Valley ag products

FRESNO, Calif. — Since the inaugural show in 2011, the number of buyers and exhibitors at the Fresno Food Expo has more than doubled.

But show organizers and exhibitors said they believe that moving it next year from mid-March to July 24, which coincides with peak production of many San Joaquin Valley fresh commodities, can only enhance the event’s draw.
“The July date would allow another side of the industry to participate more,” said Stephen Paul, sales category manager for Porterville, Calif.-based Homegrown Organic Farms and a founding member of the expo board. “It will expand the availability of items, and I think it will play well.”
Moving the date also will reduce conflicts with similar national and regional shows, he said.
The March 14 expo featured more than 100 exhibitors that showed off a blend of processed products, such as jams, cheeses and meats; minimally processed products, such as peeled baby carrots; fresh produce, such as citrus and grapes; and dried fruit and nuts.
All of the participating companies were from the eight-county San Joaquin Valley.
fresno food expoVicky BoydBruce Pack (left), a buyer for Sylmar, Calif.-based Vallarta Supermarkets, talks with James Metcalf, senior marketing director for Tres Amigos De Pasa raisin snacks, Kerman, Calif., about package sizes, retail displays and pallet load sizes.The expo was open to more than 600 wholesale and retail buyers and other business representatives during five hours mid-day to allow exhibitors time to conduct business. Then the doors were opened to the public in the evening for more of a food tasting event.
Paul said he envisioned the show helping to create a regional identity tied to agriculture, much like the Napa Valley has done with wine.
“We need to put a brand on what we do here, and it’s more difficult because we grow so many different things,” he said.
To help support one of the expo’s underlying goals — to enhance the local agricultural economy — event organizers had a one-day export seminar Jan. 15.
Representatives from China, Canada and Mexico discussed procedures for shipping produce into their countries.
Denver Schutz and Justin Nunes from Gerawan Farming Inc. attended the session, and both said they found it helpful, but for different reasons.
Schutz, technical services manager, said it was a good refresher of the export process.
Nunes, who recently joined Gerawan in sales, said the session was a great introduction.
“It gave me an opportunity to get a feel for what exporting produce is all about when it comes to rules, and regulations,” he said. “It was excellent learning how to deal with outside customers, how they are reshaping their programs and quality control. And also their distribution is getting up there with cold storage and reefers, so we can more efficiently transport commodities.”
This year also was the first time that buyers from China, Canada and Mexico attended the expo as well as toured some of the nearby packing facilities, said Candy Hansen-Gage, director of the Center for International Trade Development, Clovis.
Fowler-based National Raisin Co., which packs under the Champion label, hosted a tour stop through its processing facility, said David Miller, global accounts manager.
“They were surprised how sophisticated we were and the degree and attention we have for quality,” he said. “And all of the labs — the USDA, our own R&D and quality control — they didn’t realize there was so much sophistication to providing such a safe product.”
Hank Shen, fresh food general merchandising manager for Ole’ Supermarket who was one of 15 buyers from China, said he’s always looking for unusual or unique varieties of fresh, frozen or dried fruit.
What caught his eye were finger limes from Phillips Farms, Visalia, Calif., and dried fruit from BellaViva Orchards, Denair, Calif.
“Chinese shoppers prefer something high in moisture levels and also very sweet,” Shen said through translator Yan Zhang.
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Source: Packer Daily