The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee wants to fire up sales and is working with the makers of Weber grills to sponsor a retail display contest with a football bowl-game and playoff theme.

The promotion with the grills’ manufacturer, Weber-Stephen Products LLC, Palatine, Ill., is the second phase of a retail campaign centered around football, Treasure Valley onions and grilling, said Sherise Jones, marketing director for the Parma, Idaho-based onion committee.

The effort plays up the increasing popularity of grilling as consumers seek more healthful food. It also educates consumers about how applying heat to Treasure Valley onions brings out their sweetness, she said.

The first phase runs from Sept. 1-Dec. 1, with the second scheduled to kickoff Dec. 15 — to coincide with football bowl season — and running through Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3.

“This has been the biggest, biggest program we’ve ever run in retail,” Jones said.

During the first part, retailers received free charcoal kettle grills to use in the produce department as part of a football-themed Treasure Valley onion display.

The second phase is centered around the committee’s annual retail display contest, traditionally held in January.

The football theme seems to be generating a lot of attention, even from retailers who hadn’t participated before, Jones said.

“We made it easier and also built more incentives into this, like free grills,” Jones said. “We’re giving them fun things to work with. It just seems the football theme is so appealing because there’s so much you can do with it.”

Although tailgating may be the first thing that comes to mind with football, grilling and onions, Jones said you don’t have to be at a game to celebrate.

“Even the NFL has come up with the concept of ‘homegating,’” she said. “We looked at our research, and we’re finding there are more and more produce shoppers that are utilizing home situations to enjoy football and feed their families.”

And the sport is growing in appeal to women, with 44% of NFL fans being female, Jones said.

“We’re trying to tap into this because they’re also onion buyers,” she said.

In addition, the football theme opens up cross-promotional opportunities with other items, either within the produce department or elsewhere in the store.

To enter the contest, retailers select one week during bowl season to build a display. It must include Idaho-eastern Oregon onions and associated point-of-sale material, a Weber grill and football.

As part of their entry, they submit pictures of the displays to the committee.

Entrants receive a Weber’s “Time to Grill” cookbook and are eligible for other Weber prizes.

The winning displays also earn cash awards.

In addition, the program includes a consumer component, Jones said.

Quick-response codes on the point-of-sale material take consumers to the committee’s website, where they’ll find nutritional information and more recipes.

Retailers also have the option of displaying sweepstakes tear-off sheets. Consumers are directed to the committee’s website,, where they can enter for weekly and monthly cookbook and grill drawings. A grand prize of a large Weber gas grill will be awarded Super Bowl Sunday.

If customers enter their retailer’s information, the retailer also is eligible for the same prizes.

In addition, consumers can “like” the committee’s Facebook page and be eligible for weekly cookbook drawings.