(Feb. 6) BOISE, Idaho — Just in time for Potato Lover’s Month, the Idaho Potato Commission has hired a new vice president of retail merchandising.

Seth Pemsler, who has worked in sales and marketing for about 20 years, was to start at the commission Feb. 9.

The new hire comes three months after Jack Hansen, the former vice president, died of cancer. Hansen was 56.

Pemsler comes to the commission from Huhtamaki Oyj, a packaging company based in Finland. He was vice president of marketing and sales out of the company’s Kansas City, Mo., office.

Pemsler also has worked for General Mills Inc., Minneapolis; Ore-Ida Foods Inc.; and Ralston Purina Co., Los Angeles, in sales and marketing positions. Pemsler worked for the R.T. French Co.’s potato division in Idaho Falls for about one year.

Though he has little experience marketing fresh produce, Pemsler said he has spent most of his career in retail merchandising.

Pemsler said he would work to make the Idaho potato brand more visible, which would include co-branding with other well-known products.

“If you go to the store and you don’t see Idaho, you’re probably not going to buy it,” he said. “If it’s not tied in with other products, you might not think of having potatoes for dinner because you haven’t connected it with the other things that go with it.

“That’s going to help them (partner companies) enhance the value of their product, and obviously it’s going to enhance the visibility and therefore the premium positioning of the Idaho brand.”

The Idaho potato is now co-branded with Cheez Whiz and Hidden Valley Ranch, two partnerships that have been successful, said Don Odiorne, the potato commission’s vice president of foodservice.

In addition to co-branding, Pemsler said he would educate retailers on how to properly merchandise Idaho potatoes. He said the product should attract a premium price, which would translate into increased profits throughout the distribution chain.

“I don’t think there is a glut of potatoes that aren’t being sold,” he said. “I think they’re being sold at a lesser price and therefore lower margins for the growers.”

Frank Muir, the commission’s president and chief executive officer, said Pemsler would bring new ideas, optimism and energy to the industry and commission.