The "Grown in Idaho" seal is one of the most recognized icons in the country, if not the world. So often when I'm traveling outside the states and tell folks I'm from Idaho, they invariably say, "Ah, where potatoes are grown." I smile because these comments reinforce all the good work of the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) over the past 73 years, and most importantly, the need to continue to promote and protect the seal.
One element of our marketing plan that we've enhanced over the last few years has been promoting the Idaho potato brand at high-profile events that reach both consumers and chefs.
There are hundreds of events, and deciding which are the best for the IPC requires quite a bit of research.
We want to make sure that our participation at every event reinforces to culinary professionals that Idaho potatoes are a premium product, reminds consumers to look for the "Grown in Idaho" seal and provides an opportunity for national publicity.
Since September, the IPC has participated in three large events spanning the country, reaching our target audiences in different ways.
American Wine and Food Festival: For two years, the IPC has been a leading sponsor of the American Wine and Food Festival, a fundraising event sponsored by well-known chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck that benefits the not-for-profit Meals on Wheels.
In addition to receiving advertising and signage at the event, the IPC sponsors a recipe contest that puts Idaho potatoes directly into the hands of some of the most famous chefs in the world, like Paul Prudhomme and Nobu Matsuhisa.
Special Olympics World Winter Games: When thousands of athletes traveled from across the globe to compete in the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games, the IPC was one of the first to greet them. Our mascot, Spuddy Buddy, traded in his famous red jacket for a blue commemorative Special Olympics jersey and handed out special Idaho potato trading pins to the athletes and their families.
In addition, the IPC donated thousands of pounds of spuds to fuel the hungry athletes and I was privileged to be able to award medals to the floor hockey winners. I personally spoke with families from over 60 countries about Idaho potatoes who were all familiar with the brand and had only positive things to say.
South Beach Wine and Food Festival: This event, hosted by the popular Food Network, attracts more than 20,000 consumers and chefs from around the world. During the kick-off event, Burger Bash hosted by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, the IPC sponsored a side-dish contest where 10 top chefs grilled, fried and sautéed potatoes into fries, wedges and chips. On behalf of the winning chef, the IPC made a donation to Florida International University in support of their culinary school.
These events have proven to be a cost-effective way to reach thousands of our consumers almost one-on-one, and the results from each of these events has exceeded our expectations. They have been especially key in leveraging our relationships with chefs to make sure they are always using and promoting Idaho potatoes in their restaurants.