Whistle Stop Tours a Continuing Success

Connecting with the industry

Published in the January 2009 Issue Published online: Jan 13, 2009
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In November, I had the pleasure of meeting with more than 300 growers, shippers and processors from across the state as part of the Idaho Potato Commission’s annual Whistle Stop Tour.

We initiated this cross-state Tour two months after I joined the Commission in 2003 and it has turned out to be one of the smartest programs we’ve implemented.

As a newcomer, the Tour was very instrumental in helping me meet and engage with our industry quickly and learn first-hand what the needs were. Over the years, it has also proven to be an effective way to explain many of the Commission’s initiatives, including:

• our overall strategic approach to building and protecting the Idaho Potato brand

• the rationale for a potato tax increase to go into effect (approval was received in 2007)

• the need for an IPC staff person based in eastern Idaho (our industry relations director was hired one year ago).

Today, five years later, the Tour is stronger than ever.

On this most recent Tour, we visited four cities in three days: Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Burley and Boise and presented the 2009 marketing plan that was unveiled at the Idaho Grower Shippers Association fall meeting in Sun Valley.

I realize that not everyone is able to attend the Sun Valley meeting, but I believe it is important for everyone to know how we are using their tax revenue to promote Idaho Potatoes.

Even with a smaller crop this year, the Commission is still aggressively marketing Idaho Potatoes and as such, launched a new television commercial in November starring Denise Austin. This new ad, which was shot in Idaho, is currently airing on national networks such as CNNDiscovery HealthLifetime and the Food Network.

We are also sponsoring several high profile events with the Food Network and Special Olympics in addition to our core public relations and marketing efforts.

What was once an annual Whistle Stop Tour has now expanded to three separate tours.

Don Odiorne, vice president, foodservice and Seth Pemsler, vice president, retail/international, both conduct separate Whistle Stop Tours in the spring when they meet one-on-one with shippers.

In these meetings, Pemsler and Odiorne (along with their field promotion directors) help the shippers better understand what the IPC is doing to promote Idaho Potatoes to retailers and foodservice operators.

Training and educational manuals have been developed and are distributed through the IPC promotion directors to customers to help them make profitable potato purchase decisions.

Seth and Don also discuss industry trends such as identifying which companies are growing vs. downsizing and brainstorm new ways the IPC can help improve the shippers’ business.

In addition to the Whistle Stop Tour, growers can learn more about the Commission’s activities by subscribing to the Potato Pulse, a newsletter distributed electronically at least monthly with late-breaking news impacting the Idaho Potato grower.

The IPC also publishes a marketing newsletter, The Idaho Edge, three times a year. If you are not receiving these materials and would like to, please contact the IPC office at 208-334-2350.

Also, if you would like to receive a DVD of the Sun Valley 2009 Marketing Plan Presentation, please call our office.