Episode 85: Frank Muir, President and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission

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The Produce Moms Podcast

Episode 85: Facts on the French Fry Famine with Frank Muir, Idaho Potato Commission

Frank Muir has served as the President and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission for the past 17 years. He is leading the charge to help consumers around the world understand that Idaho potatoes are delicious, nutritious, and extremely affordable. 

Is a French Fry Famine Headed Our Way? 

The media is buzzing about a “potato shortage” that could leave us fry-less. Concerned consumers and businesses alike have been writing into The Produce Moms to get the scoop on the potato shortage. With dramatic headlines insinuating that America could run out of potatoes – Frank Muir wittily described it as French Fry Famine Fear – we decided to go straight to the source to gather some facts, and put minds (and stomachs) at ease. 

In 2019, an early frost and inclement weather from Hurricane Dorian threatened to destroy potato crops not just in Idaho, but in the midwest and parts of Canada. 

Idaho farmers and harvesters worked around the clock days before the frost to gather as much of the harvest as possible and were able to get 85% of the crop into storage before the severe weather took out the rest.  Some of the remaining crop was salvageable. The yield varied between 0-5%, meaning some fields did experience a total loss. 

While it’s hard to determine the long-term impact of a loss of this magnitude, many focus on the loss without taking time to consider all of the facts. 

The 2019 harvest yielded 13 billion pounds of potatoes! That’s enough to fill an entire football stadium end-to-end and one mile high. 

The bottom line: There are still plenty of potatoes for everyone. 

“They aren’t just good to eat, but they’re actually good for you. We’ve made big strides in returning the Idaho potato to its rightful pedestal as America’s favorite vegetable.” – Frank Muir  (2:30-2:45)

The Harvest Cycle of the Idaho Potato 

To fully comprehend the impact of a diminished harvest on the farmers and consumers alike, it’s helpful to understand a little bit more about the harvest cycle of Idaho potatoes. 

In Idaho, potatoes are grown along the Snake River Plain that stretches across the bottom third of the state. Potatoes are harvested only once per year, and are then placed in extremely sophisticated climate controlled storage facilities, where they wait to be shipped, sold, and eaten by you! 

If you do your best to mimic the climate controlled environment utilized by Idaho potato distributors, your potatoes can last much longer

Episode 85: Facts on the French Fry Famine with Frank Muir, Idaho Potato Commission

Impact on the Consumer

As a Produce Mom, I’m sure you are very familiar with the concept of supply and demand. When supply is down, price increases. 

So, how will this affect our potato purchases? 

While there’s potential for price to increase as the Idaho potato supply tightens, the potato will remain a frugal, nutrient-dense purchase. 

Consider this – even if Idaho potatoes doubled in cost, they would still only cost on average between $2.00-$5.00 for a 5lb bag. 

Can you think of another vegetable in the produce section that you can purchase for $1 per lb?  

“Potatoes are the most economical vegetable you can purchase. Even with a tightening supply and prices going up a little bit, it’s still going to be the most valuable return for produce that you can purchase in the grocery store” – Frank Muir (9:45-10:15)

‘Potato Lovers Month’ 

Did you know that February is the month to celebrate potatoes? 

Baked, fried, or instant, Idaho loves potatoes and wants the world to celebrate with them. 

Be on the lookout for displays in one of the over 5000 local grocery stores who participate in the annual display contest, and follow the Idaho Potato Commission on social media to join in the fun! 

The Takeaway

The media outlets have overdramatized the potato crop shortage, leading consumers to believe that the crop may not last through the year. 

The Idaho Potato Commission is still promoting and advertising, alongside the vast number of restaurants and grocery stores.

So, never fear, the salty companion to your ketchup should stay hot, fresh, and ready to be dipped for the duration of 2020. 

When you’re shopping, always look for the ‘Grown in Idaho’ seal, to buy the very best potatoes have to offer!

How to get involved

  • Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week! 
  • Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here
  • Be sure to check out The Produce Mom podcast EP39, also featuring Frank Muir, to learn more about why the Idaho potato is so special.
  • Visit the Idaho Potato Commission’s website for recipes and more, and follow them on social media to join in all of the ‘Potato Lover’ fun!
  • Share this episode with your friends and families to let them know they don’t need to be concerned about a French fry famine!

Episode 85: Facts on the French Fry Famine with Frank Muir, Idaho Potato Commission

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About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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