New USPB chair sees opportunity in millennials
By John O’Connell
OSGOOD, Idaho — Before hearing from a panel of millennials during U.S. Potato Board’s recent annual meeting, Brett Jensen assumed the convenience of packaged, processed foods would most appeal to the next generation of consumers.
Instead, he learned the market segment of 18- to 30-years-old tends to prefer fresh ingredients, likes to entertain with creative foods and seeks to experiment with dishes inspired by other cultures.
Jensen, an Osgood area farmer who was sworn in as the new chairman of USPB earlier this month in Colorado Springs, Colo., believes millennials offer promise for a fresh U.S. potato category that’s seen flat sales lately.
USPB marketers will continue targeting a hypothetical consumer named Linda, who is 25-54 years old with children under 18 living at home. But the organization vows it also won’t forget millennials in future marketing efforts.
“It’s a whole new audience to educate and go after,” Jensen said, noting a young man on the panel indicated he spends an hour on average preparing dinners. “They do care about what they want to eat and take time to make meals.”
USPB spokesman David Fairbourn said the panel of four women and two men was assembled to show board members “the changing face of the consumer.” Panel members were representative of the generation’s demographics and preferences, based on prior research by the Boulder, Colo.-based Sterling Rice Group.
“They seem to like fresh, with very little processing,” Fairbourn said. “They look at food as more of an experience. They like to experiment. There are no boundaries with them seemingly.”
As the new USPB chairman, Jensen said another priority will be developing a new five-year plan to establish the organization’s direction.
“That’s going to be our big focus,” Jensen said. “We’re going to try and get as much input from all of the growers and industrywide.”
Jensen, 43, was raised on a potato farm in Osgood. He attended Rick’s College and Utah State University, where he graduated with an accounting degree. In the mid-1990s, when commodity prices were relatively low, he started his own farm on rented ground and eventually managed to buy a small acreage, which he expanded as neighbors retired. His farm now encompasses 7,000 acres.
He and several growers own Snake River Plains Potato, a fresh packing facility. He also raises Ranger Russets for processors. His father, Wayne, continues to farm and has been a valued source of farming advice.
Jensen and his wife, Kristy, have five children: Jace, 18; Rylee, 15; Brayden, 13; Karsen, 10; and Bella, 4. His two oldest sons have both expressed interesting in running the farm in the future.
During the meeting, USPB also elected new chairmen: Brian Kirschenmann, of Bakersfield, Calif., on the finance committee; Carl Hoverson, of Larimore, N.D.; Marty Myers, of Boardman, Ore.; and Mike Pink, of Mesa, Wash., on the international marketing committee; Mike Carter, of Rosholt, Wis.; Bruce Richardson, of Capeville, Va.; and Chris Wada, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, on the domestic marketing committee, and Kurt Holland, of Center, Colo., and John Meyer, of Cohocton, N.Y., on the industry communications and policy committee.