“The granddaddy of ‘em all.”

That’s how I’ve heard produce directors and merchandisers describe the annual Potato Lover’s Month display contest, sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission. (full disclosure: my day job is with the IPC) There are big produce merchandising contests, and then there’s this, the contest with the biggest bragging rights of all.

The not-so-secret secret is that potatoes are the No. 1 volume and tonnage item in produce. In fact, 88% of households buy potatoes annually, leading the top vegetable category, according to Nielsen data provided by Potatoes USA. Every demographic customer base uses potatoes, some more than others. However, potatoes consistently weigh in at or near the top, year after year. And for good reason: Potatoes are healthy, low-calorie, deliver energy-providing “good” carbs, are high in vitamins and minerals, and are a terrific source of potassium. And they taste pretty darn good too.

Not a bad resume for what some consider a not-so-sexy produce category. Potato Lover’s month isn’t just in February any longer either. The Idaho Potato Commission has extended the contest period now to last from mid-January to mid-March. That gives you ample time to promote America’s favorite vegetable while applying for some exceptionally cool prizes for your display efforts. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.


Display Prep

Consider: It isn’t so much the size of the display, but how creative it is that counts most to the judges. Categories also include various supermarket sizes, so the contest isn’t just for the big stores. Map out your display area, be it the front end of the store or in the produce department. Obviously, the bigger your display “footprint,” the better the creative possibilities. Order plenty of Idaho potatoes and other needed products, and schedule the labor to execute your plan.


Display Components

A winning display will be eye-catching. To achieve this, plan to have ample dimensions of width, height and depth. Build it so it is easy enough to maintain for the required time period, easy to stock, rotate and, especially, easy to shop. A winning display might include props (farm implements, burlap sacks, bushel baskets, etc.), a creative theme, and color breaks. Ensure you use plenty of point-of-sale materials and great signing to convey what you’re doing — pushing a variety of fresh Idaho potatoes. Gather or assemble these support components and associated products beforehand to save time. Need some ideas or inspiration? Go to www.IdahoPotato.com, click on the retail tab and follow the prompt to see photos of last year’s winning entries.  


Follow the Rules

Yeah, there are a few rules, of course. Don’t let a great potato lover’s month display entry be downgraded for lack of an important component. Visit the same Idaho Potato Commission website for contest rules and details.


Build that Display!

Arrange for your potatoes to arrive a day or two beforehand — enough to build and maintain the sales that are sure to follow. The best time to build your display may be during an overnight or early morning shift. By doing so, you’ll have minimal distractions and time to make adjustments and let the creative juices flow. Take your time, stock your display completely and neatly, paying attention to details, as everything will show up on your entry photo.


Take a Quality Photo

Speaking of photos, use a quality, high-resolution camera. Take several photographs from different angles and with good lighting and clear focus. From this selection, choose the best of the lot and submit your entry. Remember to just submit the photo — don’t try to incorporate it into Word documents or PowerPoints as this could diminish the photo quality. Also, examine your display closely before taking your photos, remove often-overlooked blemishes such as background debris or an exposed camera case left behind. These could detract from the desired finished look and spoil what may otherwise be a flawless entry.

Imagine: A midwinter potato lover’s month contest. Time to get the word out that Idaho potatoes are indeed nutritious, delicious, and are always a great value. At the same time you’ll be generating store excitement, added sales and gross profit margins in one of the strongest categories in the produce department.

Potato Lover’s Month. Who says spuds aren’t sexy?  

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