by Tamas Houlihan, Managing Editor of the Badger Common’Tater
When the Spudmobile was launched on August 12, 2014 at Farm Technology Days in Stevens Point, no one was happier or more proud than Michael Gatz.
Gatz has served as Chairman of the WPVGA Promotions Committee for the past three years, during which time he has worked diligently to shepherd the Spudmobile project to its completion.
Gatz has worked for Bushmans’, Inc. since 2009. Headquartered in Rosholt, Wisconsin, Bushmans’, Inc. is a large grower and marketer of potatoes, onions and other vegetables. As Director of Business Development, Gatz’s primary role with the company is to support the growth of existing accounts, as well as develop new avenues of growth for the company. On the creative side, he assists in the development of new packaging and marketing strategies.
In the following interview, Gatz talks about the Spudmobile and provides an overview of the other projects being undertaken by the WPVGA Promotions Committee, while also commenting on the upcoming potato marketing season. How would you describe the overall concept of the Spudmobile?
The Spudmobile will be a mobile marketing and educational tool, designed to bring a hands-on experience to the public highlighting Wisconsin potatoes. Where and how will it be used?
We envision that the Spudmobile will be used throughout Wisconsin (and neighboring states) to promote Wisconsin potatoes at schools, festivals and retail outlets. Depending on the venue, it has the flexibility of being education focused or more of a marketing vehicle for Wisconsin potatoes. Our primary goal is to provide a fun, interactive experience to everyone who visits the Spudmobile!
What are the highlights of the interior of the Spudmobile?
The Spudmobile has eight interactive stations designed for fun and education. Displays highlight technological advances in growing as well as the history of Wisconsin potato farming. There is also an interactive potato variety and recipe station, and a giant gaming station for kids. The Spudmobile was designed to appeal to the entire family!
As Chairman of the WPVGA Promotions Committee, what do you see as the key projects taken on by the committee?
The Spudmobile has been one of the largest projects that the committee has undertaken. That said, we have also developed several exciting marketing avenues for Wisconsin potatoes. Most recently, the WPVGA has partnered with regional television personalities Mad Dog & Merrill. On many of their upcoming cooking shows, they will be highlighting creative uses for Wisconsin potatoes.
Last year, we did a limited trial of our Potatopalooza program, a festival-like event highlighting Wisconsin potatoes that included games, challenges, and giveaways at retail outlets. This year, we hope to expand that program (using the Spudmobile!) and make October a Potatopalooza month-long celebration.
We have recently created new “Buy Local” bin displays, as well as new secondary displays that will hold up to 100# of potatoes and /or onions for retail store kits. The new displays are available now.
Additionally, the WPVGA has become a sponsor with Tundra Racing. Given the enthusiasm for racing in our state, we are excited about the level of exposure this will give Wisconsin potatoes.
What are some of the recent trends you’ve seen with regard to potato marketing?
I’m seeing a trend toward value-added packaging; 1-, 2-, and 3-pound items such as fingerlings and C-size red, yellow and purple potatoes are trending in popularity as people are more creative and experimental with their home potato cooking.
What do you think are the primary reasons that Wisconsin potato marketers consistently lead the nation in return to grower?
Location, location, location! Wisconsin has great freight advantages over western state growers, given our proximity to population centers. Add to that our consistently excellent product and aggressive marketing campaigns, and you have the opportunity to sustain these returns for years to come.
We have an excellent crop this year! With the size and quality we are seeing, we should be able to aggressively promote Wisconsin potatoes throughout the year.