"Inside the Long Range Plan"

USPB Engages Supermarket Registered Dieticians

Published in the November 2011 Issue Published online: Nov 07, 2011 David Fairbourn
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Webinar event connects fresh potatoes with influential audience

Want to really get your consumers' attention and put more potatoes in the shopping cart? Why not engage supermarket registered dieticians (RD's)? Started in late 2008, this has been a new and exciting element in the United States Potato Board's strategy to build a foundation of goodwill for potato nutrition. As gatekeepers to their store's consumer outreach programs to promote healthy lifestyles, RD's are important in the USPB's mission to position potatoes as healthy, versatile, delicious, convenient and time saving in the consumer's mind.

On Wednesday, June 1, the USPB hosted an online webinar for supermarket RD's, titled "The Power of Potatoes-Nutrition Research, Consumer Insights and Retail Strategies." Complete with continuing education credits, 38 RD's representing national retailers across the country joined USPB Nutrition Consultant Katherine A. Beals, USPB Retail Program Consultant Don Ladhoff and USPB Public Relations Manager Meredith Myers for an insightful presentation uncovering the myths and misconceptions associated with potatoes, and presenting new research about the role of the potato in diet quality. Consumer insights, retail strategies and tips for increasing consumer awareness were explored, and the resources and tools available for consumer promotion of potatoes at retail were unveiled.

Addressing the Myths

"Potato Myths and Misconceptions" was the topic Dr. Beals presented. She addressed commonly mistaken ideas about potatoes and their nutrition, and presented new research supermarket RD's can use to dispel consumer misconceptions.

"Potatoes in fact are nutrient dense, one medium-sized, 5.3-ounce potato is only 110 calories, but contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, and is an excellent source of Vitamin C," Dr. Beals explained. "Potatoes with the skin on rank highest in potassium content among the top 20 selling fruits and vegetables in the United States. At 620 mg per serving, this is just under two times the potassium of a banana.

"This potassium content of potatoes afforded it an FDA Approved Health Claim: `Foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.'"

According to Dr. Beals, new research demonstrates potatoes, as a nutrient dense vegetable, can be part of a weight management program. The majority of the potato's nutrients are found in the flesh, and the often-cited high glycemic index (GI) of potatoes is highly variable. She also cited recent USPB-commissioned research that found children's lunches that contain potatoes also contain more servings of other vegetables, and are significantly higher in potassium, fiber and vitamin C. Additionally, potatoes do not displace other vegetables.

No Margin of Error

"Healthy Margins-Opportunities for Partnering with Your Produce Department" was the title of Ladhoff's portion of the webinar. He identified opportunities for supermarket RDs to partner with the produce department, and specifically the potato category.

"Shoppers are motivated by the nutritional benefits of potatoes," Ladhoff said. "In shopper intercept studies we've done, we've found only about one in six shoppers truly understand all of the nutrition benefits of potatoes. When told about those nutritional benefits, two out of three shoppers indicated they would be more likely to purchase potatoes in the future. We also know consumers do buy and eat more vegetables when potatoes are included in the meal.

From loyalty-card/shopping basket studies, Ladhoff also noted how the purchase of potatoes helps drive the purchase of other healthy produce items. Consumers buying potatoes purchase nearly twice the normal amount of tomatoes, 2.5 times the norm for carrots and 2.3 times the broccoli purchased by the average shopper.

"What does success look like when supermarket RD's and produce departments are cooperating?" Ladhoff asked. "It looks like shoppers spending more of their food dollars on produce-and potatoes-and spending it in your store. It's truly a situation where everybody wins. And it's also a bridge to forging a stronger relationship with those shoppers and engendering greater loyalty to retail establishment."

In a "Retail Strategies" section of his presentation, Ladhoff explained how supermarket RD's are best able to assist produce departments attain this vision for success by helping communicate to shoppers. "The produce department is a colorful, well-organized department full of healthy foods, but there's a scarcity of communication vehicles in this department compared to the rest of the store," he said. "For all the healthy positive things we can say about potatoes and their nutritional benefits, it's more challenging for the produce department to get that message out than it would be for another aisle of the store."

Ladhoff suggests RD's help the potato category by helping get good information into supermarket ad circulars and websites, moving beyond just a picture of a potato and a price, and reinforcing nutritional benefits, or offering innovative serving suggestions. The two primary messages the produce department is looking for help with is shopper education about potato nutrition and varieties and inspiration with new ideas and recipes. Demonstrating healthy ways to prepare potatoes, whether live, or through virtual in-store videos, or online are beneficial.

"The goal of a demonstration is to engage shoppers in the store with new, different and innovative ideas," Ladhoff said. "It's also important to make sure the information is readily available via a recipe card or a website so consumers can replicate the new concepts presented in the store."


In her Partners in Nutrition webinar presentation, Myers presented the tools and resources available to supermarket RD's from the USPB that can be incorporated for their stores' use. She invited them to feel free to adapt USPB recipes to feature their branded products.

"The USPB has customizable assets at the ready, including editorial content, photos, recipes, video productions, slideshow presentations, trend information, potato statistics, nutrition science and research," Myers said. "Our editorial calendars look a lot like yours, and some of the common themes we share are: New Year, New You; Breakfast and Brunch Inspiration; Healthy Comfort Foods; Spring into Summer; Summer Grilling; Back to School, Back to the Dinner Table; Holiday Favorites and Entertaining Ideas."

The USPB developed a key initiative to educate consumers about potato types, because research shows consumers who use more types of potatoes will buy and serve them more frequently. Romance language describes the look, taste, texture and favorite preparation for each type of potato-information all shoppers are asking for.

"Additionally, we've taken some beautiful farmer's market photography, developed signature recipes for each type, seven videos were produced as an interactive element and retail materials continue to make presenting this material at point-of-sale or on your website an easy process," Myers explained.

The USPB developed three ads featuring new recipes to match the multidimensional aspects of potatoes, inviting consumers to discover the fresh, healthy and surprising side of potatoes. The recipes were tested with focus groups, and they are proven to generate new usage and purchases. These three ads will continue to appear in cooking and women's lifestyle publications throughout the year.

"If you are interested in running any of these recipes or the photos featured with these ads, you could very easily place a banner across the top of one of these that reads `As seen in.' and name the publication," Myers said. "The ads will appear in publications including Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, and Cooking Light. This way, your shoppers will have a second opportunity to be influenced by the healthy potato innovation that's in print and in your communications."

Myers adds, "The gluten-free side is one of the fastest growing diet categories in the food industry. Potatoes are a fresh, natural, affordable and convenient gluten-free option to recreate much-loved but forbidden meals. In fact the USPB devoted its most recent quarterly media push to news about the naturally gluten-free potato. The potatogoodness.com recipe database was updated to include a gluten-free category and a search section that now returns over 80 gluten-free recipes."

Supermarket RD's can help dispel the myths and misconceptions about potatoes. In future webinars, the USPB will continue working with this group of key influencers to identify resources, tools and opportunities to use in retail potato promotions. Consumers want to know more about potatoes, and as their awareness increases, so will their demand for potatoes and the innovations the potato industry is developing.