(Oct. 10) DENVER— It’s full sail ahead as the U.S. Potato Board prepares to mount an aggressive nutrition information campaign assault against consumer misperceptions caused by fad diets that have chipped away at potato consumption.

“We’re pulling up anchor and are setting sail,” said Tim O’Connor, the board’s president and chief executive officer.

Following intensive 2½-day focus-group studies conducted in August, the national checkoff-funded potato marketing and promotion organization has measured consumer’s nutritional knowledge about potatoes and is developing promotional messages to counter damaging diet information coming from advocates of the Atkins, Zone and South Beach diets.

“In our early focus group work, it was very clear that consumers don’t understand the nutritional profile of potatoes,” O’Connor said. “We were amazed by what consumers did not know about potatoes.”

The research, announced Oct. 8, showed consumers perceived potatoes as being very high in carbohydrates, O’Connor said.

After the six groups of consumers were told how potatoes have nearly half of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, are a big source of potassium, have only 100 calories, are a good source of fiber and contain less than 10% of the recommended daily allowance of carbohydrates, “the consumers were flabbergasted,” O’Connor said. “They wanted to have a potato right there.

“We see an urgency here and a need to rally the industry around this. We believe this has the greatest potential to impact the consumption of anything we’ve identified in our consumer research.”