LAS VEGAS — The third annual Potato Expo attracted more than 1,400 registered attendees, a 17% increase over 2010.

The number of exhibitors also increased to 114.

The Expo’s opening general session featured Bruce Scherr and Dave Kohl, two leading economists, who said recovery from the recession will be particularly beneficial to grower-shippers who export fresh produce to emerging nations. Domestic recovery will take time, however.

“The economy is in decent shape,” Scherr said. “It’s going to be a long haul to get us back to the kind of prosperity we would all love and want, but we will be structurally better off.”

U.S. productivity will be the fuel that drives domestic recovery, Kohl said.

Record crowd turns out for Potato Expo 2011

Don Schrack

Steve Lutz, executive vice president of the West Dundee, Ill.-based The Perishables Group, told a Potato Expo 2011 workshop in Las Vegas that fresh potatoes offer substantial upside potential for retailers. “The creativity of foodservice is moving into retail,” he said.

“The U.S. will produce more in one hour than 25% of the countries of the world produce in one year,” he said. “We produce more in 28 days than China does in a whole year.”

A highlight of Potato Expo 2011 was two days of workshops.

The Denver, Colo.-based U.S. Potato Board unveiled its latest consumer research that has honed in on the target consumer, said Kathleen Triou, vice president of domestic marketing.

Potatoes offer substantial upside potential for retailers, said Steve Lutz, executive vice president of The Perishables Group, West Dundee, Ill.

“The creativity of foodservice is moving into retail,” he said..

He encouraged retailers to use variety innovation and varietal introduction to create interest and excitement in a category.

While foodservice has seen the advantages of fresh potatoes, there is still room for growth, said Nancy Kruse, president of The Kruse Co., Atlanta.

A survey of chefs found that freshness is the No. 1 trend in foodservice, she said. From the customers’ perspective, freshness connotes flavor, health and value, Kruse said.

“That trio of benefits is so powerful that it’s absolutely money in the bank for restaurants,” she said. “Fresh potatoes work hand-in-glove with that trio of benefits.”