Talking Shop with… Jamie Bowen

Jamie Bowen, marketing manager for the Idaho Potato Commission, shares the secrets behind the Success of Potato Lover’s Month.

Why should retailers be excited for Idaho Potato Lover’s Month? Jamie-Bowen_0043b
Jamie Bowen: February is the hottest month of the season for Idaho potatoes, thanks to the Idaho Potato Lover’s Month retail display contest. Now in its 23rd year, the annual Idaho Potato Commission competition helps build higher sales volumes for both spuds and the entire produce section during what has traditionally been a slower time of year.

How does the Idaho Potato Lover’s Month retail display contest help stimulate sales during the lull after the holidays?  
As the largest vegetable display contest in the U.S., with more than 4,000 entrants last year alone, the Potato Lover’s Month competition encourages retailers to unleash their creativity to promote the great attributes of Idaho potatoes. February is now one of the stronger volume months for potatoes, and it is entirely because retailers are building these giant displays and ordering truckloads of potatoes, more than they ever did in the past. Idaho potato shippers have also been doing a wonderful job of adding overlays to Potato Lover’s Month. That strengthens the program’s impact as well.

What makes the Idaho Potato Lover’s Month contest so attractive to retailers?
With more than $150,000 in cash and prizes awarded annually ($34,000 in cash prizes alone), the contest continues to attract more entrants every year. Participants even receive an incredible prize just for entering—this year it is a BlueROCK Wireless Bluetooth speaker. We also offer a Category Manager Match program to award equivalent cash prizes to category managers for the stores that win first- through fifth-place prizes. So retailers cannot lose if they enter.

Are there any cross merchandising opportunities for retailers during Potato Lover’s Month?
What could be a more perfect fit with Idaho russet potatoes than Hormel Real Bacon Bits? That is why we have partnered with Hormel, a major food brand that shoppers know and trust, for the second year in a row to help retailers build even more appealing Potato Lover’s Month displays. Hormel provides a coupon good for Idaho potatoes and Hormel Bacon Toppings. Plus, the display contest point-of-sale materials include double-sided signs that feature a mouthwatering photo of a steaming hot, bacon-topped baked potato.
In addition, Hormel’s direct sales force of 250 people calls on every retailer in the U.S., and the company shares its valuable insights to make sure Idaho Potato Lover’s Month display materials maximize the potential for bacon and Idaho potato cross merchandising.

Is the contest open to all retailers?
Yes. We also have a separate contest just for the military. We started that program in 2006 after Seth Pemsler, IPC vice president, retail/international, came on board and reached out to the military to see if they were interested in having their own Potato Lover’s Month celebration.

Each year we get more than 100 military commissaries that participate in two different regional categories. The two first-place place commissary winners in each category receive trips to the next year’s annual PMA Fresh Summit show, including air fare, hotel and an all-access pass to the show.

What does a retailer need to do to enter the display contest?
Just build a creative, attention-grabbing display with Idaho potatoes and Hormel Real Bacon Bits and feature it in the produce section of the store for at least one week between Jan. 27 and Feb. 28. Then, submit a photo of the display along with the contest entry form by March 15. Point-of-sale materials and the contest entry form are available at www.idaho.com/retail; for military commissary display materials and entry forms, go to www.idahopotato.com/plm_military2014.

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