SUN VALLEY, Idaho — The Boise State Broncos were golden for the Idaho Potato Commission on Sept. 6.

Boise State, Idaho spud alliance golden so far

Tom Karst
National Editor

That was the night, of course, of the lid-opener to the college football season featuring BSU and Virginia Tech in a top 10 showdown at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.

The game was a see-saw affair, and despite Brent Musburger condescendingly writing off the Broncos’ chances in the waning minutes, Boise State rallied to beat the Hokies 33-30 in their own backyard.

That keeps in play the commission’s high profile tie-in to BSU football this year, a relationship that is bound to help sports fans 1) know where Boise State is (Idaho), and 2) also give some nice public relations opportunities for Idaho potatoes.

If the Broncos continue to win — and their schedule favors that notion — it can only help Idaho potato growers. The Idaho potato support and alliance with Boise State is a timely, fun and hip connection.

While BSU is still arguably an underdog in the major college football world, its link with Idaho potatoes gives it the swagger of a longtime U.S. potato champion.

The Monday night football game also featured a television spot that promoted Idaho potatoes as the state where the best potatoes come from.

At first take, the shot across the bow of other potato producing states may seem like evidence of a little insecurity by the state that made potatoes famous.

“Of course Idaho produces the best potatoes — who said they didn’t?” might be the response of some consumers.

Well, some football fans might recall when Frito Lay advertised a spot during the Fiesta Bowl appealing to the local food movement.

The spot featured growers from all over the country answering a question of where the best potatoes come from.

The responses — Texas, California, New York or what have you — were spoken with almost mock sincerity by potato farmers in each of the states not named Idaho.

The concept of the Frito Lay ad was to communicate that the Lays potato chips you pick up at your grocer may well have been produced from potatoes grown in your backyard — wherever you might happen to be.

The effective and slick rejoinder from the Idaho Potato Commission pumped up the Idaho consumer seal. Idaho’s marketing efforts, including this ad, should continue to elevate and burnish the Idaho potato seal.

———

Bruce Peterson can be brutally frank, and in his address to the Idaho Grower Shippers Association he said advances in frozen technology could threaten growth in the fresh produce department, and particularly for vegetables.

Will improvements in frozen technology truly hurt fresh produce sales?

The point can be made that fresh and processed fruits and vegetables often come from the same growers.

Aren’t turf wars and petty arguments favoring one form over the other a waste of energy?

True, this logic carries weight as it relates to nutrition and broader promotion efforts by the Produce For Better Health Foundation.

But make no mistake, there are winners and losers if frozen gains market share over fresh produce for share of stomach. Fresh produce marketers, retailers and the associations that represent them have a stake in growing and preserving market share for fresh.

I recently asked the question of how the fresh produce industry should respond to the threat of frozen to members of Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group on LinkedIn.

Here are excerpts of a few thoughtful responses from the group:

One member said:

“In my view, the industry responds to this potential threat by strategically aligning itself as suppliers with the frozen industry, seeking branded opportunities.”

Another responded:

“Flavor, flavor, flavor. The fresh supply chain is challenged to drive out time in every way, and to move through the supply chain in the ideal environment with stability — if the ideal temperature (or other factor) is 34 degrees ... do not let it deviate.”

Another said:

“Competition for market share should be a good thing if the result is economic benefit for farmers (supply-demand) and higher per capita consumption of colorful and healthy fruits and veggies (consumption ... all forms matter).”

Another wrote:

“Frozen is frozen and fresh is FRESH. The consumers are responding dramatically to fresh in the buy local, buy fresh movement. The consumer also respects frozen fruit as a positive and very useful product. They use them accordingly. Fresh will always be the higher ground option unless there is a significant value exchange to choose otherwise. Frozen is much better than it used to be, but with a few exceptions, it isn’t on par with fresh yet.”

All of those points are valid. In addition, I wonder if issues like environmental/greenhouse gas measures may play a role in consumer marketing.

The best approach for fresh marketers is to create innovation and convenience in fresh offerings while maximizing freshness and taste appeal.

E-mail tkarst@thepacker.com

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.