Idaho is getting the word out about its potatoes on many fronts.


In other words, situation normal.


The state is forecasting a harvest of about 12 billion pounds of spuds on 319,000 acres, even after late-summer hailstorms damaged about 25,000 acres, said Frank Muir, chief executive officer of the Idaho Potato Commission.


“Quality is excellent this year, with a nice size profile,” he said.


 


Muir said the upcoming season is going to be “a great year for marketing campaigns.”


That’s plural. For the commission, that’s becoming the norm.


Idaho promotes potatoes on several fronts, not the least of which is Potato Lovers Month each February.


“We’re targeting the consumer, foodservice operators and retailer produce buyers,” Muir said. “We’ve got some strong campaigns. We’ll do the biggest-ever Potato Lovers Month this year.”


Last year, retailers entered more than 2,000 display entries in the Potato Lovers Month contest.


“And that was a really good year,” Muir said.


The centerpiece of Idaho’s marketing effort, Muir said, is a continuation of its television campaign featuring fitness expert Denise Austin.


The TV blitz is running nationally from mid-October to early February, on all of the over-the-air networks and major cable outlets, Muir said.


“We’ll also run heavy spots on the networks CBS, NBC and ABC in major markets, including Boston, Chicago and New York,” he said. “About 10-12 markets will get heavy advertising.”


Austin, who has served as a spokeswomen for the commission for several years, is leading the campaign’s focus on nutrition, with its “Welcome to Idaho” theme, which got under way last year, Muir said.


Idaho potatoes have been featured on “Awesome Adventures,” on the Fox Network, which is geared toward pre-teens.


“They came to Idaho recently, and we took them to a shed and farm,” Muir said. “They made their own fries.”


Idaho spuds also will be featured on Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” in a Philadelphia restaurant, with professional chef Gordon Ramsay.


“The Idaho Potato becomes the foundation for the makeover for this restaurant,” Muir said.


Art Ginsburg, whose “Mr. Food” spots appear on CBS affiliates across the U.S., is planning three segments featuring Idaho potatoes — to run in the fall, Muir noted.


The commission also is setting up “satellite interviews with Austin and Idaho-born gold-medal-winning Olympic cyclist Kristin Armstrong.


The commission’s Web site also has numerous videos, including former “Gilligan’s Island” star Dawn Wells, a longtime spokeswoman for Idaho potatoes, demonstrating how to peel a spud without a peeler.


Young audiences have become a major focus of the commission’s marketing strategy, Muir said.


“We’ve got to target younger people, too,” he said. “We released an animated potato harvest video. It’s tied to schools. We’re offering a $10,000 raffle. Schools can show it. Teachers are looking for things to use. This is education on how potato grows. Most people don’t know. There’s a game they play and automatically are entered in a raffle. They can win $5,000, and their school can win $5,000.”


The exposure is paying off, Muir said.


“Last year, we generated over 1 billion in impressions in our PR events,” he said. “We get this in coverage on TV and in magazines and Web sites. Blogs are following what we’re doing. We’re trying to track all this, and we found we had over 1 billion impressions, which was by far our best year ever.”