How two Southern Hemisphere nations are leading the way in innovative potato marketing.
In the past two issues of Spud Smart, we focused on potato promotion initiatives developed by industry groups in the United Kingdom and the United States. We conclude our international potato marketing series with a look at some of the inventive promotional activities and strategies rolled out by potato industry organizations in New Zealand and South Africa.
Potatoes New Zealand is the official organization representing the 200 potato growers in that country. The organization has a range of promotional strategies aimed at increasing potato consumption by empowering consumers, key influencers, growers and industry partners. In essence these strategies focus on promoting the versatility of potatoes as a food choice, clarifying the nutritional status of potatoes, and positioning potatoes as a fun, exciting and socially responsible food choice.
During 2013, PNZ undertook a major consumer research project to assist all those in the industry to grow potato sales. AC Neilson was contracted to undertake this research, which is done every four years. The research included an overview of the relevance of all current promotional strategies of PNZ and identified areas that required more emphasis or less focus.
PNZ maintains a strong media presence across all mediums from print, radio and web, to television. This has come about through a combination of channels — work with food writers, health professionals, teachers, dissemination of scientific reports, and potato recipe newsletters and blogs. PNZ also issues general and targeted press releases on such topics as potatoes and St. Patrick’s Day, potatoes for athletic performance, and potatoes for weight loss, which are used regularly by the New Zealand media outlets.
PNZ invests a lot of energy in helping food writers spread the “potato word” — in particular, by developing and sharing tasty potato recipes that are regularly mailed out to writers. PNZ presented at the Food Writers May Market Day and was a Gold sponsor of the annual N.Z. Guild of Food Writers conference held in November.
School Holiday Program
PNZ supports an online school holiday program that runs three times per year. This is available to every child who has access to the Internet. The program encourages children to cook at home using their own food, and has inspired thousands of kids to cook for their families. In the July holiday program, participants planted their own potatoes to harvest that were then cooked up as part of the October program. Research shows that children who understand where food comes from make better food choices.
The Spudtacular Strategy
The PNZ’s “Spudtacular” strategy essentially teaches kids how to bake a potato, and is another example where children are the focus of the organization’s promotional efforts. Underprivileged children who participate in New Zealand’s Stand Children Services system are taught why potatoes are good for them and how to cook them. Every participant leaves with backpack full of potatoes and other food goodies. A Spudtacular cookbook was recently published.
Supporting Community Initiatives
PNZ supports a range of community initiatives from Show Days to School Galas. The organization is often asked to supply product, posters or prizes. PNZ finds that for minimal investment of cash, resources and effort, a high “potato profile” can be achieved through events like these, contributing to PNZ’s goal of keeping potatoes front of mind of consumers.
National Vegetable Promotion
PNZ contributes financially and links closely with vegetables.co.nz, which constitutes the generic vegetable promotion strategy of Horticulture New Zealand. Vegetables.co.nz’s major strategy is to partner with key influencers such as food writers, teachers and health professionals to increase consumption of fresh New Zealand-grown vegetables. Promotional activities focus on taste and inspiration, and include a wide range of high-quality, evidence-based resource materials and information for the education, health, retail and consumer sectors.
Vegetables.co.nz hosts Forum on Wheels visits to growers’ production sites, and a potato grower is always included as part of these popular public tours. Leading food writers and chefs attend these forums that are held about four times per year. Vegetables.co.nz produces the popular Fresh Inspiration, a tabloid widely distributed to culinary professionals throughout New Zealand twice a year. PNZ supplies copy for one page of the publication for every issue.
International Marketing Groups
Throughout the year PNZ maintains contact with potato marketing groups in other countries — in particular South Africa, Australia, United Kingdom, United States and Canada. The relationships built up with these groups is said to prove invaluable. Research, resources, strategies and ideas are shared by the various organizations, and while all adapt to their own markets, there is no doubt that access to other marketing groups is a positive exercise.
Potatoes South Africa is an association whose main objective is to serve, protect and promote the interests of the South African potato industry. The association’s marketing department is actively promoting potatoes to the South African public and has launched several promotional activities during the past year.
PSA initiated a branding strategy dubbed “Potato Nation.” The brand strategy is at the core of PSA’s promotional activities that includes online activities, cook-offs, in-store competitions, promotions at sporting events and more. In a press release, PSA says it “wishes to change South Africans into a Potato Nation that maintains balanced diets and makes potatoes the everyday, fat-free heart of their meals.”
The marketing department of PSA initiated the first ever symposium on potato marketing at the start of fiscal year 2012/13. Local and global specialists in the fields of marketing and branding presented at the event. The objective of the symposium was to serve as a gathering place for farmers, key industry players and representatives from the entire supply chain so that ideas on potato promotion can be easily exchanged.
Street Vendor/Commuter Campaign
The South African taxi industry is a multi-billion rand industry that carries more than 60 per cent of South Africa’s daily commuters. With this in mind, PSA initiated a hawker or street vendor program at 20 major taxi stands as well as the country’s biggest fresh produce markets. An estimated three-million commuters had the opportunity to see and hear about potatoes during the campaign, and a total of 320,000 potato samples or “tasters” were distributed during the campaign. The participating fresh produce markets reported record total potato sales worth four million South African Rand (about C$400,000) during the campaign period.
PSA initiated an in-store promotional campaign in partnership with Robertsons Herbs & Spices, South Africa’s biggest spice brand, and one of the country’s biggest retailers. Dubbed ‘What’s your potato combination?’, the campaign organizers invited shoppers to participate in an in-store contest involving SMS codes that offered cash prizes for shoppers who bought pre-selected potato varieties. The campaign reportedly was a great success.
PSA recently launched an online campaign on Facebook that was entitled, “Potatoes. The heart of every South African meal — Celebrate Potatoes. Celebrate the Nation.” Visitors to the page are invited to share pictures and videos of themselves having fun with potatoes and sharing their favourite potato dishes with family and friends, with cash prizes offered up to fans who demonstrate the most creativity. An impressive 42,000 Facebook users have been reached thus far.
The Comrades Marathon is a world-renowned long distance foot race that takes place annually on the east coast of South Africa. In 2013, more than 14,000 runners took part in the 89-kilometre race, and PSA was at the event to promote potatoes. Three tons of potatoes were cooked and served at every third refreshment table along the course. Colourful posters and other promotional material were employed to promote potatoes among the sporting community as well the public at large.
This past year, 500 schools in major urban areas were identified as key target markets for the PSA to connect with youth. The organization compiled an educator’s workbook about potatoes and distributed the publication to all schools. The material in the workbook is suitable for learners in Grades 1 to 7.
Potatoes South Africa hosted a Pop-Up 2013 Competition this past July. Aspiring young foodies under the age of 35 who believed they had what it takes to create the ultimate potato dish were invited to participate in the contest. A total of 16 finalists were selected from various restaurants, hotels and cooking schools to participate in a cook-off and present their dishes to the judges, media and members of PSA. The competition generated wide media coverage and really helped put potatoes squarely in the spotlight.