The Power of Deliciousness

New research suggests potatoes be portrayed as finished product

Published in the February 2014 Issue Published online: Feb 20, 2014
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At the core of the United States Potato Board (USPB) retail program is the mandate to enable retailers to reconnect the potato category with their customers by identifying what appeals most to their shoppers. Sometimes the insights seem so intuitive, even if the practice isn’t widely known, such as recent study findings: Ads that feature prepared potato images are much more effective than those that show simply raw or bagged potatoes.

The USPB commissioned Nielsen Perishables Group to examine what makes retail circular ads more effective. Looking back at retailer ads, nationwide, over a 52 week period, this full-scale study analyzed the performance of prepared potato ads and compared them to ads from that same retailer featuring the same potatoes at the same price point, but with the ads showing images of raw or bagged potatoes instead. This study involved 10 different retailers and 41 ad sets.

Nielsen’s analysis found that, in aggregate, ads showing images of prepared potato dishes delivered incremental volume lifts a full 23 points higher than raw or bagged ads (156 percent vs. 133 percent, respectively). Additionally, prepared potato ads proved to be much more effective with bagged potatoes than bulk potatoes. And after looking more closely at bagged ad results, the USPB uncovered a surprising finding: While the improvement for russet five-pound bags using prepared potato images aligned closely with the overall differential category, red five-pound bags experienced a performance differential of nearly twice the norm.

Ads featuring prepared potato dishes outperformed ads showing just potatoes by more than 20 points in each category, and by 62 points for red potatoes.

Why is this so? After further study, the USPB retail program was able to attribute the strong performance of prepared image ads to three primary factors:

Prepared potato images look more appetizing, and consequently do a better job of attracting consumers’ attention

Delicious prepared ads illustrate the desirable “end state”—the reason shoppers are buying potatoes in the first place

Mouth-watering photos provide ideas for new and interesting potato preparations—a proven influencer for increasing potato consumption

“Retailers’ meat departments have understood this phenomenon for a long time, and circular ads showing plump, juicy cooked hamburgers or delectable roasts are the norm,” USPB retail marketing consultant Don Ladhoff explains. “But the produce department typically prefers to emphasize ‘fresh,’ showcasing glistening berries and colorful peppers. Potatoes need to be granted an exception here – if retailers will treat fresh potato ads more like their meat department would, according to this USPB research, they will be rewarded with stronger sales lifts.”

The USPB has hundreds of high-resolution photographs of delicious potato dishes available at absolutely no charge. Hundreds of potato recipes are located at and can be requested by contacting me at or
(303) 873-2333.