Building Relationships With Foreign Snack Manufacturers

Published online: Dec 15, 2006 USPB News Release
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DENVER - The United States Potato Board recently organized a trade mission to Southeast Asia so U.S. chip-stock growers could meet with snack manufacturers. During the week-long trip, the U.S. delegation visited leading snack manufacturers in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, a majority of which do not purchase U.S. potatoes, but whose quality-challenges could be solved by using U.S. chip-stock.

The trade mission was an opportunity to educate foreign chip manufacturers about U.S. chip-stock varieties, their characteristics and how to maintain quality. It also gave U.S. growers a first-hand look at export markets and foreign chip manufacturing operations.

The U.S. delegation was made up of two U.S. chip-stock growers, Bill Walker from Gold Dust Potato and Jason Davenport from California Oregon Seed, Dr. Joe Sowokinos from the University of Minnesota, as well as USPB's International Committee Co-Chairman and Oklahoma grower, Virgil Slagell and International Marketing Manager, Sarah Mahler.

"Getting U.S. potatoes in front of the right people is very important," said Slagell. "We had high level people sitting across the table at these meetings, all there to learn about U.S. potatoes and their quality. Obviously, we believe U.S. potatoes are the highest quality and we have the best experts in the industry. By the end of the meetings, they agreed."

Most manufacturers in these markets purchase potatoes locally or import from other countries, and many have quality issues that can be solved with U.S. potato varieties and education. However manufacturers often think because the transit time is long, U.S. potatoes will not be in good condition upon arrival at their facility.

"This is not the case," Mahler explained, "and that is why we, the USPB, continue to share information with the snack manufacturers that demonstrates how U.S. potatoes are the highest quality, despite transit time."

The foreign snack manufacturers learned from an expert, Dr. Joe Sowokinos, about maintaining the quality of their potatoes and, in the end, their snack products. Providing quality maintenance education demonstrates the United States not only wants to sell them quality U.S. potatoes, but wants to help them with their production of snack foods.

"Bottom line -- most people are skeptical of the people they do business with until they meet in person," asserted Davenport of California Oregon Seed. He explained that trade missions help create long-term relationships between the U.S. potato industry and foreign snack manufacturers. "Having the change to address U.S. potato availability and quality issues, face-to-face, has been key in expanding our business into some of these countries."

The USPB strives to create new markets for U.S. chipping potatoes and to enhance U.S. chipping potato growers' export capabilities. During 2006, the USPB sent sample containers of U.S. chipping potatoes to four of the companies visited on this trade mission. Plans are in the works to send a sample to one of the companies in Thailand next year.

The U.S. industry is now selling trial containers to one company in the Philippines to test in their facility and is supplying a company in Malaysia with U.S. chipping potatoes for their current production. As a result of the trade mission and other USPB activities, sales of U.S. chipping potatoes continue to increase year after year.