IPC runs first ever Potato Lovers Month contest in Mexico with great success

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The popular Potato Lovers Month retail display contest that draws tremendous participation from stores large and small each year was held south of the border for the first time, and the results were muy bueno.

“In Mexico, we had some great success this year with one of the retailers,” Ross Johnson, international marketing director of the Idaho Potato Commission, told The Produce News.

Calimax, which operates 92 stores within the 26-kilometer zone along the U.S. border within which “we are allowed to export our fresh potatoes has committed to sourcing 100 percent Idaho potatoes 12 months out of the year,” said Johnson.

That relationship “led to us developing Potato Lovers Month promotions with them,” which ran in May and were the first such events the commission has ever run in Mexico, Johnson said.

Because things in the Mexico supermarket business are “a little bit different than they are here,” he said the promotion was also a little different from the ones that run in the U.S.

“Our Potato Lovers Month contest [in Mexico] had three components,” Johnson said. One was the creativity of the display, another was sales growth and the third was a reduction in overall shrink for the stores, an issue the retailer had identified as a major concern and which, Johnson said, was due largely to lack of training and inadequate rotation at store level.

“This got the produce departments involved and excited,” he said, and 85 of the 92 stores participated, submitting pictures of their displays.

“The stores, on a year-over-year basis, achieved an average of 12 percent sales increase” during the month-long promotion, he said.

IPC President and CEO Frank Muir told The Produce News there is no longer a testing requirement for Idaho potatoes destined for Mexico “except for Bonneville and Bingham counties, so that is allowing us to expand our business in Mexico within that 26-kilometer area.”

There are also efforts under way nationally to try to get all of Mexico opened for U.S. potatoes, and it is possible that the Mexico supreme court may make a ruling on that by the end of this year.

In other market access issues, “we’re back to shipping chipping potatoes to Japan,” said Muir.

Also, South Korea opened up this year, “but that was in large part due to a crop failure in their country,” Johnson said. “We did have some success in shipping containers to Korea. Hopefully, we will be able to continue that.”

The IPC is involved in fresh potato promotions in about 17 countries. “Our goal this year has been to leverage the relationship with the retailers and the importers to drive more sales of Idaho potatoes,” Johnson said.

The programs abroad “mirror a lot of what we are dong here in the United States” including signage, display bins, recipe ideas and training for in-store staff on how to handle U.S. potatoes, he said.

In Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia, “we have had a lot of success this year,” he said. “We plan on continuing, as more and more importers” are discovering the quality of Idaho potatoes. The programs of the commission “set us apart from any other state,” boosting the quality image of Idaho potatoes. Those programs “give us the leverage we need to convince them to go with Idaho over any other state.”