ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. Potato Board president and CEO Blair Richardson invited 2015 Potato Expo attendees to weigh in on a potential new marketing approach for the board.

USPB looks for new marketing directionsAt a Jan. 8 luncheon general session, Richardson described a possible new approach for the group that sets a goal of raising money for 3,000 potato-friendly salad bars for schools over the next five years.

Calling the theme “Ignite the love for potatoes,” Richardson said the “experiential marketing” approach is being considered. He asked for attendees to give input on the idea to their potato board representatives by March, when the U.S. Potato Board will meet.

“If we get strong support of this, we will add 3,000 salad bars to schools in five years.”

The campaign will be aimed at Generation Z, which is defined as children up to about 22 years old, he said.

“These are the people who will be buying our product for 60 or 70 years, and they have more influence on people that have money than any other generation,” he said.

Blair said that potatoes are part of the “fresh salad generation” and there is an opportunity to educate young consumers how to eat potatoes in a healthy way, with the help of salad bars.

NPC Priorities

For the National Potato Council, Ryan Krabill, senior director of legislative and regulatory affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based group, the Potato Expo provided the opportunity to highlight top priorities for the group in 2015.

Krabill said the NPC is encouraging grassroots advocacy on several issues, including possible legislation of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that some scientists say is hurting bee populations.

“The overall issue of bee health is very complex, ranging from bee genetics to availability of proper forage,” he said.

Other issues for NPC include the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, potato breeding funding and possible truck weight reform.

Highway transportation legislation authorization expires this year, and Krabill said there will likely be an attempt to reform the truck weight limit. Raising the truck weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds, plus adding an extra axle, will reduce the number of trucks on the road, not hurt braking distance and improve highway safety, he said.

Legislation addressing voluntary labeling of genetically modified food also is expected to be taken up by Congress this year.

USPB looks for new marketing directionsErik Gonring, industry affairs manager for Simplot Plant Sciences, Boise, Ida., said the Potato Expo gave Simplot the opportunity to serve chips made from the genetically modified Innate potato and demonstrate its non-browning characteristics for cut potatoes.

He said 400 acres of Innate potatoes harvested last year are expected to be marketed early this year on the fresh market, as fresh-cut products and potato chips.

Acreage of the Innate may triple or quadruple this year, he said.

“We are almost sold out of seed for 2015,” he said.

Chris Wallace from the Fox News Sunday television show spoke at the Jan. 8 lunch session, stating that Republicans could be motivated to move on immigration measures before the 2016 election.

He said the party has to recognize the shifting demographics and present an immigration solution to the growing number of Hispanics in the U.S.