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Idaho Potato Agency CEO bullish on state’s best acclaimed crop.

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Brad Carlson/Capital Press

Idaho Potato Agency Admiral and CEO Frank Muir forth the Boise River, aing to the commission’s Eagle headquarters.

Idaho Potato Commission

The Big Idaho Potato Barter makes promotional tours about the U.S. seasonally.

When is a potato added than aloof a potato? Aback it’s an Idaho potato.

Just ask Frank Muir, admiral and CEO of the Idaho Potato Agency for the accomplished 15 years. As the commission’s top executive, his job is to argue consumers from Savannah, Ga., to Seattle, Wash., and aloft that the Idaho potato is special.

“Were these potatoes developed in Idaho? That is what we appetite bodies to ask,” he said.

Idaho grows accomplished potatoes for affidavit that accommodate balmy canicule and air-conditioned nights; volcanic, mineral-rich soil; and mountain-fed streams that tumble into a adult backlog system, Muir said. “Our business that makes a mystical abode of Idaho, beyond the world, for growing potatoes.”

Many Idaho potatoes additionally accommodate a academy allotment of solids, which can be advantageous for processing, he said.

When Muir tells you potatoes are account accepting aflame about, it’s based on the 37 years he’s spent allowance to about-face about some of the country’s best-known brands.

Higher profile

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The Idaho potato’s academy contour during the accomplished 15 years has contributed to an 80 percent jump in farm-gate acquirement over the period, acknowledgment in ample allotment to the commission’s ample advance in civic marketing.

Potato organizations in the accompaniment say the brand-building is a success account maintaining.

“There is added cast acceptance for Idaho potatoes than for about annihilation in the country,” said Potato Growers of Idaho Controlling Director Keith Esplin. “If they would abdicate that, in a few years potatoes would be a all-encompassing product.”

Idaho is the nation’s arch potato producer, accounting for about 33 percent of the abatement crop ceremony year, according to the Agricultural Business Resource Center.

When Muir advised abrogation his 22-year accumulated business career to advance the Idaho Potato Commission, he told commissioners and agents he would re-establish the Idaho potato as a brand. His apropos ranged from a abridgement of civic announcement and all-embracing fresh-potato sales to a accident that Idaho potatoes were acceptable about all-encompassing admitting the state’s acceptability for growing them. He additionally said added varieties were needed.

“They knew what they were getting,” Muir said. “We are activity to re-establish the Idaho potato cast as the arch cast in produce.”

In Muir’s aboriginal year, 2003, farm-gate acquirement from potatoes was $536 million, bottomward 19.7 percent from the antecedent year and 3.3 percent beneath the five-year boilerplate at the time. This year’s farm-gate acquirement is $975 million, up 1 percent from 2017 and 4 percent aloft the best contempo five-year average.

From 2003 to 2018, the agency added its ceremony account 37.6 percent, from $10.9 actor to $15 million. Abundant of that came in 2008 in the anatomy of a 25 percent access in the industry-paid checkoff for business and research. The checkoff rose from 10 cents per hundredweight to 12.5 cents, abundantly to pay for civic advertising. The blow of the account access was generated by academy sales volume.

Financial assets over the years reflect the activity by farmers, fresh-pack shippers, processors and advisers in accession to revved-up branding, Muir said.

“Frank Muir has done an outstanding job branding Idaho potatoes,” said Aaron Hepworth, a potato agriculturalist alfresco Rupert and lath affiliate for civic business accumulation Potatoes USA. “Some of his account accept been aloof phenomenal, and with the accomplishing of those we’ve aloof apparent huge assets that weren’t alike anticipated.”

Surprise success

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The Big Idaho Potato Truck’s success afraid alike the ever-optimistic Muir. The semi-trailer-sized potato replica was declared to bout the U.S. alone in 2012 to mark the commission’s 75th anniversary. Instead, it has been so accepted it has kept touring ceremony bounce and summer, authoritative appropriate appearances in parades and at antic contest and promotions. This month, it was at a bounded audience for television achievement appearance “American Idol” in Coeur d’Alene.

“There were a lot of bodies who brainstormed as allotment of this,” Muir said of the barter campaign. Bounded and civic announcement firms, agency agents and Boise-area barter and bivouac businesses fabricated contributions to what started as a comedy on the longstanding postcard depicting a truck-mounted potato and declaring: “We Abound ’Em Big Here in Idaho.”

“I absolutely admired the abstraction but additionally accomplished the challenges of aggravating to do that on that massive a scale,” Muir said.

Listing all of the things that could go amiss with a big-truck bout and laying out antitoxin accomplishments and accident affairs became a focus. So did advantageous abeyant objections about what the accessible could accept advised alone promotional, he said. IPC angry the truck’s appearances to fundraising for Commons on Wheels, an American Heart Affiliation women’s bloom attack and assorted city-specific causes including aliment banks.

Brand adds demand

Hepworth said that while an Idaho grower’s banking after-effects alter year to year, efforts to cast the state’s potatoes accomplish the industry added acceptable in the continued appellation and “create added demand. That is added artefact that needs to appear from Idaho, whether fresh, candy or dehydrated.”

For example, processors J.R. Simplot Co., Lamb Weston and McCain Foods — all of which advertisement or upgraded Idaho accessories afresh — “want added assembly from Idaho so they can get a quality- or brand-associated exceptional price, which is what we pay the Idaho Potato Agency to do,” he said.

Muir said absolute Idaho potato acreage of 311,316 this year represents a 1.15 percent accretion from a year ago, apprenticed mainly by the amplification of processors.

The agency has additionally created all-around acceptance for Idaho potatoes and invested heavily in research, said Dan Hargraves, who consults for the Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative. The accommodating negotiates, on account of affiliate growers, ceremony affairs amid growers and processors.

“And of late, there accept been arctic potato articles branded with the Idaho seal, and the agency has been active alive in that direction,” he said. “For the arrangement growers I assignment for, that is a absolutely absolute development. The industry is evolving and growers are evolving forth with it. There has been a lot of alliance and things are aloof changing. We anticipate the agency is aggravating to be proactive and is acclamation challenges in the marketplace.”

Muir’s contributions

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Americans were affective abroad from the potato aback Muir came to the commission, said Idaho Grower Shippers Affiliation Admiral and General Counsel Shawn Boyle. The affiliation and PGI apostle for the industry on aldermanic affairs at accompaniment and civic levels.

“During his time he has focused on convalescent that, and bringing us aback to our roots,” he said.

Idaho Potato Agency Industry Relations Director Travis Blacker said there is boundless acceding amid growers that accepting a high-profile cast is good.

“They are appreciative to be Idaho potato growers,” he said.

Muir, 63, grew up in Brigham City, Utah, area he was the aboriginal football amateur from his aerial academy in years to acquire a scholarship. Arch up to that — he played arresting end at Utah Accompaniment University — befitting clue of his statistics and agilely assuming absorption in arena academy football provided aboriginal acumen into the amount of communicating a bright bulletin and a able belief. He would clarify that accomplishment set after on a mission in Chicago for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Muir again went on to Brigham Young University, earning a bifold bachelor’s amount in business administering and advice in 1979 and an master’s amount in business administering in 1981.

Brand revivals

He again formed about 2 1/2 years ceremony for General Mills and R.T. French Co. as abettor cast administrator and business manager, respectively. At General Mills, he becoming three promotions alive with some of the high-profile, customer packaged-good brands of the era. At French, alive in Idaho Falls, he helped abound a analysis Pillsbury ultimately acquired.

From 1986 until he came to the IPC, he formed in Fullerton, Calif., for what originally was Beatrice/Hunt-Wesson. His aboriginal job there was to about-face about the La Choy brand, a band of Asian foods, sauces and able meals. Beatrice was acquired by a captivation aggregation and burst up, with ConAgra in about-face affairs Hunt-Wesson.

“What I became accepted as was a turnaround specialist who ambulatory ahead acclaimed brands and did so on bound budgets,” Muir said. Developing this specialty “gave me the artistic authorization to anticipate out of the box and body a cast aural the anatomy and banking backbone of a big company.”

In his aftermost three years with ConAgra, he and his teams almost doubled, to about $1 billion, a 15-brand portfolio including Wesson Oil, Pam, Peter Pan, Van Kamp’s and Swiss Miss after laying off staff.

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“I was apparently the longest-surviving business guy at ConAgra,” Muir said.

A creative, ambitious aggregation was a key to success, forth with “an ambiance that promotes affiliation aural the aggregation and cross-functional aggregation associates from areas like marketing, sales, operations and research,” he said. “I abstruse that from General Mills. Always accept in aing with your customer on an affecting akin to authorize cast loyalty.”

Muir, who faced alteration aural Southern California further from his family’s home, got chat from his sister in Boise that the Idaho Potato Agency was gluttonous a new arch executive.

Ultimately the agency continued an offer, and he said he would accede it. The agency administrator and carnality administrator again met with him while he was visiting ancestors in Utah. “That fabricated a big consequence on me.”

Fighting back

Muir, on accession at the agency in mid-2003, focused on accepted low-carbohydrate diets. Consumption of potatoes, bananas and apples was in decline.

“Nobody in aftermath was angry back,” he said. “I don’t anticipate they knew what to do.”

One of his aboriginal moves was to cull a new TV ad that was active in California. It showed an activated potato with a aperitive attending about it. It was replaced with an ad featuring a close-up of a accustomed potato.

“We bare to hit: Potatoes are acceptable for you,” he said.

National fettle personality Denise Austin helped advance Idaho potatoes for a decade starting in 2004, and the American Heart Affiliation in 2011 — partly at Muir’s advancement — certified the Idaho potato as heart-healthy. Amid added initiatives, all-embracing business and industry relations admiral were added to agency staff.

He and agents additionally targeted the bounded foods movement. Although Idaho consumers bought Idaho potatoes, the state’s baby citizenry bound that segment. The agency aimed to accomplish abiding bodies in added states would still seek out Idaho potatoes. Idaho’s potato bazaar allotment is growing alike as the movement continues, he said.

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Muir said bounded announcement had been the focus aback he arrived. The ad focus is now national, including $3 actor of the accepted year’s about $15 actor account spent to aftermath and advertisement two ads for aboriginal abatement to backward spring. The Big Idaho Potato Barter and Middleton-area agriculturalist Mark Coombs and his Spud Hound are featured in the two civic TV ads. The aboriginal ran Sept. 15 during the Boise State-at-Oklahoma Accompaniment academy football d on ESPN.

It and addition ad are slated to run accordingly Oct. 22 through the alpha of April on assorted networks and a alive service. Muir said this is the aboriginal year the agency filmed two spots in one year for its Big Idaho Potato Barter alternation — befitting the barter arresting aback it’s not touring.

By alive with allied ally such as media outlets, analysis consultants or added business groups such as Potatoes USA, IPC seeks to advantage ceremony dollar it spends into abundant greater abiding value, he said.

An ceremony announcement amount of about $450,000 additionally covers appellation advocacy of the Acclaimed Idaho Potato Bowl academy football d televised nationally; the agency started that in 2011.

The agency spends 80 percent of its account on business and research, he said.

Other IPC ceremony expenditures accommodate about $1 actor for analysis and $400,000 to advance beginning potatoes in added than 15 countries — “not bad for a landlocked state,” he said.

The money goes to costs such as announcement and barter shows, and affair with distributors and chefs. Often, Idaho’s all-embracing efforts are accumulated to advantage Potatoes USA’s efforts. Muir said Idaho now ships about 5 percent of its beginning potatoes to overseas, up from aught 15 years ago.

Back on the field

Muir lives in Eagle, a Boise suburb, with his wife, Cindy. They accept four developed children.

He stokes his aggressive spirit with running, aggressive arts and arena ceremony year in the Thanksgiving Day “turkey bowl” football d with a accumulation of accompany who are adequately austere players.

“My cold is to account one touchdown so I can accumulate playing” the aing year, he said. He’s played in 40 beeline ceremony games.

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