The Washington Potato Commission hopes to boost awareness of the state’s potatoes by giving away 10,001 1-ounce bags of potato chips to a lucky fan on the Facebook social media website.
“So that you and 10,000 of your closest friends can have a bag of wonderful Washington potato chips,” said Chris Voigt, the commission’s executive director.
The winning name will be drawn March 14, which is National Potato Chip Day.
To be eligible, participants must “like” the commission’s page on Facebook and share a link about the contest.
The amount of potatoes grown in Washington for chips has expanded over the last five years, Voigt said. Thousands of containers of chipping potatoes are exported each year from Washington to Asia.
Japan has increased its imports by roughly 156 percent and South Korea increased its imports by 245 percent, due to implementation of a free trade agreement. Thailand went from virtually nothing to become the biggest export market for chip stock, Voigt said. He declined to give specific numbers because of the small number of businesses in the market.
Commission members hope potato chip interest will grow overseas, he said.
If approved, the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement would make it more cost-effective for foreign snack food companies to buy U.S. potatoes, Voigt said.
“I think it will continue to grow as long as we can keep those markets open,” he said.
Voigt hopes the contest generates an awareness of the importance of the snack food market.
“Potato chips don’t have the best image, but yet, turn it over and read the ingredient list, and you will find fresh, wholesome potatoes from the earth, cooked in healthy oils and lightly seasoned,” he said. “I hope people realize it really is just a wholesome snack and it’s OK every once in a while.”
Tim’s Cascade Chips, based in Algona, Wash., manufactures the commission’s promotional potato chip products under the “Watato” brand. The commission owns the trademark.
The amount the company provides the commission varies.
“It was a little bit larger order than normal,” said Jeff Leichleiter, vice president and general manager for Tim’s Cascade.
Leichleiter hopes the promotion reaches South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
“It’s good for the other countries to see that we’re definitely geared up for export,” he said.
Voigt said the 10,001 bags equals roughly 2,500 pounds of potatoes.
What would someone do with that many potato chips?
“A tremendous amount of people would make donations to the food bank,” he said. “We recognize that when times are tough and you’ve got to make decisions in your family, usually snacking is kind of a low priority. It’s a real nice treat for people to be able to go into a food bank and get something more than a staple (food item).”
The next Facebook promotion will seek the most creative suggestion to collect on a Super Bowl bet with the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Voigt said. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos in this year’s game. As a result, the Colorado committee’s executive director, Jim Erlich, must do a potato promotion in Seattle for the Washington commission.
Voigt said the commission is also considering other possible promotions, including working with engineering students to build “the largest spud gun” to see how far a potato can be shot.
Washington Potato Commission: http://www.potatoes.com
Tim’s Cascade Chips: http://timschips.com