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Retailers Win Big in Idaho Potato Commission Contest

Mike Dyer, produce manager for Raley's store #108, in Reno, Nev., took first place among stores with 10-plus registers in the Idaho Potato Commission’s (IPC) 2016 retail display competition. Now in its 25th year, the contest upped its game with double the number of award levels and partner products as Country Crock Original Buttery Spread joined Hormel Real Bacon Bits to help spur even more spud sales during the nine-week competition period.

With more than $200,000 in cash and prizes at stake for the 5,000-plus retailer participants, the contest brought out the creative best in retail produce managers, including Dyer, who used it to drive "customers straight to the produce aisle with two real-life tractors flanking its display of a super-sized Idaho russet potato perched on the back of a red truck. We brought the tractors in through the front door [of the store],” explained the 33-year Raley's veteran. “It was really tight, but we got them in! And our customers thought it was awesome.”

At Kroger J-915, in Elkhart, Ind., which won top honors in the 6-9 cash register category, shoppers fell in love with the winning entry: a Spuddy Buddy cutout riding in a Big Idaho Potato Truck cutout with a giant red heart atop his head, professing his undying affection for the tubers. “We had 5-pound [bags] on sale [during the display]," noted Lead Produce Manager Julie Bolton, "so that really drew customers to it."

For stores with 1-5 registers, Grocery Depot's Williston, Fla., store took home first prize by building a bridge between Idaho potatoes and shoppers in its display of eight Mylar Spuddy Buddies under and over the entrance to “Idaho World.” Produce Manager Cristian Rodriguez said, "The display was something very cool to do, and I got a lot of good comments from customers.”

Within each store category, entrants competed for these prizes:

  • 1st place   -  $2,000
  • 2nd place  -  $1,500
  • 3rd place   -  $1,000
  • 4th place   -  $800
  • 5th place   -  $700
  • 6th place   -  $600
  • 7th place   -  $500
  • 8th place   -  $400
  • 9th place   -  $300
  • 10th place -  $200
  • Honorable Mention - $100 (100 selected from remaining entries)

“It’s always inspiring to see how much these wonderful Idaho potato displays help our retailers boost sales from mid-January through mid-March, which has tended to be a slower time for potatoes,” said Jamie Bowen, IPC marketing manager. “This year, we were especially impressed by the many great entries from military commissaries in their separate contest -- they really outdid themselves. It’s such a fun contest for everyone, stores and shoppers alike.”

Corrine Hjelmen, brand manager for bacon toppings at Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods Corp., agreed that the contest is a win-win for retailers. “Every year, we continue to build this program and make it a stronger presence with our retail partners,” she said. “[The display contest] is a great way to cross-merchandise and increase their sales on both their potatoes and their bacon toppings.”

“Idaho Potatoes continues to be a perfect pair and partner for Country Crock, creating simple homemade dishes everyone loves,” agreed Bettina Scott, Country Crock brand building manager for Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based Unilever.

In addition, the Category Manager Match Program awarded equivalent cash prizes to category managers at stores that qualified for first- through 10th-place prizes. Everyone who entered received a free Hamilton Beach Personal Cup one-cup pod brewer, compatible with coffee grounds, K-Cups and soft pods.

Retailers were required to create a display for their respective produce departments featuring Idaho potatoes, Hormel Real Bacon Bits and Country Crock Original buttery spread, along with themed point-of-sale materials from the IPC, Hormel and Country Crock. The display had to be up in the store’s produce section for at least one week between Jan. 11 and March 11, 2016.

In their own IPC display contest, from March 21 to April 3, 2016, military commissaries competed in two categories by store size for the top category prize of a trophy and a trip to the Produce Marketing Association’s 2016 annual convention in Orlando, Fla. Second-place winners in each category earned $500 in commissary gift cards and a plaque, and third-place winners received $250 in commissary gift cards and a plaque. Each military commissary entrant also received a Swiss Army backpack.

"We’re saving the [contest prize] money for Thanksgiving, when we’ll use it to order a bin of 10-pounders and give them to the single sailors," said Maribel Cruz, produce manager at the NAS North Island Commissary, in San Diego. Added Paul Tuason, produce manager at the San Diego Naval Base Commissary, “Our customers loved the Western theme, and we saw higher sales of almost 8 percent.”

For photographs of the winning displays and a complete list of winners, visit

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