In an almost unprecedented call for help, chairmen of the Idaho and Washington potato commissions are asking the United States Potato Board for assistance in dispelling health and nutrition myths about french fries.
In a letter in late June to James Tiede, chairman, of the USPB, Jeff Raybould, Idaho Potato Commission chairman, and Jerry Nelson, chairman, Washington Potato Commission, asked for a four-point program of support.
They said the Board should be more active in providing information to consumers regarding potatoes and their health benefits, should teach consumers how potatoes/potato products are part of a balanced diet, and be more proactive in responding to health concerns that are speculative or unproven.
Raybould and Nelson said these issues should be placed at the top of the new strategic plan for the USPB.
They pointed out that the french fry industry in the U.S. is experiencing its first downturn in a number of years. Processors are not only facing low-cost competition from foreign companies and weakened economies in foreign markets, but also a significant decrease in consumption in domestic markets.
This is causing cuts in grower contracts and closure of production faculties. Simplot's Heyburn, ID, plant will be closed next year. McCain's Burley, ID, plant has cut acres as have Washington processors. There are also strong rumors that the Caldwell, ID, plant will either be sold or phased out.
The duo asks that the Board direct more of its attention from foreign export markets for fries to domestic fry markets at this time. They suggest the USPB educate quick-serve-restaurants and foodservice providers how better quality U.S. fries can boost their bottom line. They also encourage work to build loyalty amoung QSR's and foodservice companies to purchase U.S. vs. imported fries.