True Believers

Published in the April 2013 Issue Published online: Apr 12, 2013 Tyler J. Baum, Editor
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During last year's blockbuster movie The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, and Batman are talking on a rooftop. Batman looks away for a moment, looks back and realizes she's suddenly disappeared.

His reaction is, "So that's what that feels like."

The humorous line references the many times during the previous two films Batman does that to other people (mostly Jim Gordon).

I've spent countless hours over the past 10 years behind a notepad and/or digital recorder, conducting interviews with anyone from small-town mayors to potato growers to dog sled racers to the CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auction Company, Craig Jackson. (Yes, I certainly did!)

But during the last two weeks of January of this year, I was interviewed twice in the space of two weeks by members of the media.

So that's what that feels like.

The first time was in the Pond Student Union Building on Idaho State University campus at the UI Potato Conference. A TV reporter approached me, asking about the state of the industry. And then, while I was sitting on a couch, gorging a scrumptious baked potato from the potato bar at the Washington-Oregon Potato Conference at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Wash., the next week, a newspaper reporter from the Columbia Basin Herald interrupted my nirvana to ask me the same kinds of questions.

My point is, at any given moment are we ready to explain to consumers-or even the media-why we do what we do or why consumers should be eating more potatoes?

During the POTATO EXPO in Las Vegas a couple weeks earlier, a small Nevada potato grower-he only grows about 15 acres-approached me after my panel discussion on the EXPO Stage. He vented about how, essentially, we as an industry need to show consumers we're the biggest consumers of potatoes, and that we are because we believe in them.

Every time we spotlight something in this magazine that will increase your yield, I actually feel a little guilty about that-even though it's my job to help you guys market and grow a better crop. But as we've all seen, our problem as an industry isn't growing a better crop-it's marketing a better crop.

In this issue, we'll hear from USPB Retail Marketing Consultant Don Ladoff, who addresses the "New Normal" presented by the USPB at the POTATO EXPO in Vegas-volume sales are continuing to decline despite improved attitudes and a reported increase in in-home consumption. It doesn't necessarily mean sales opportunities for fresh potatoes are diminishing-it means we need to be attentive to the shifts occurring in consumer/shopper behavior.

Ladoff suggests things potato suppliers can do to respond to the shift. I hope we take those things to heart. And by now I hope we've been wise in the number of acres we've planted, or next year's prices are gonna hurt us all.

Now leave me alone so I can finish this baked potato.