The first words that come to mind for most people when they hear the word February is Valentine's Day but for those of us in the produce industry, it's Potato Lover's Month.
For years, the Idaho Potato Commission has been celebrating Potato Lover's Month as a way to recognize America's favorite vegetable and boost sales during a relatively slow month.
The Idaho Potato Retail Display Contest has become one of the industry's most anticipated retail promotions. Throughout the month of February, retailers across the country pull out all stops to build the most creative Idaho Potato displays.
Produce merchandisers are incentivized by the chance to win more than $150,000 in cash and prizes. Now in its 18th year, this contest continues to attract huge support from retailers from across the country. Last year close to 1,900 entries were received.
This year for the first time, Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blends and Molly McButter are joining the IPC and all displays must include these two healthy products as well as Idaho Potatoes.
Another way the Commission is reaching consumers during February is by sponsoring two high profile events. The first is the Special Olympics World Winter Games which are being held in Boise, Idaho. As a sponsor of this international competition, the IPC plans to show the athletes why Idaho Potatoes are known throughout the world as a premium product.
Each athlete will receive a Spuddy Buddy doll wearing a commemorative blue Special Olympics sweater he/she can carry around for good luck. Spuddy Buddy himself will make appearances at many of the events, including several awards ceremonies, and will pose for pictures with the athletes.
The IPC will also sponsor a baked potato bar for the athletes and their families and distribute commemorative pins the athletes can trade. Denise Austin, the IPC spokesperson, will participate in a Satellite Media Tour on the first day of the Special Olympics World Games where she will share some of her favorite heart healthy recipes and wish all the athletes good luck.
Later in the month, the IPC will take center stage at the Food Network's South Beach Food and Wine Festival in Miami, a four-day destination event showcasing the talents of the world's most renowned chefs and culinary personalities.
The IPC will be a part of the kick-off event, Burger Bash, hosted by TV personality Rachel Ray, where 23 top chefs will roll up their sleeves and show off their grilling skills. In addition to slinging patties, the chefs will each prepare a side dish using Idaho Potatoes.
A few lucky IPC representatives will taste each side dish and have to determine the best. A donation to Florida International University will be made in the winning chef's name.
This is an ambitious and exciting month for the IPC. With so much going on, February may no longer be the slowest month for potato sales.