Mexican retailer plugs Idaho goods

Sean Ellis/Capital Press An employee of supermarket chain Soriana prepares frozen Idaho potato products for an in-store promotion in Mexico City Dec. 8. Soriana is Mexico's second-largest retailer.

480-store chain puts varied bounty of state in front of customers


Capital Press

MEXICO CITY -- Idaho officials believe an in-store promotion of Idaho products by Mexico's second-largest retailer was a major coup for the state's agricultural community.

Mexican supermarket chain Soriana, which owns 480 grocery and super-stores, promoted Idaho products at several of its stores for seven days. The pilot promotion was timed to kick off Dec. 8 with the arrival of an Idaho trade delegation.

"This is the first time one of Soriana's in-store promotions didn't focus on a product or label," said Armando Orellana, Idaho's trade representative in Mexico. "They're promoting the state of Idaho and that's very significant."

The promotion included displays with an Idaho landscape as the backdrop and mock-ups of several Idaho products, including frozen and dehydrated potatoes, frozen and fresh onion products and salad dressing produced at manufacturing facilities in Idaho and Washington.

Store employees dressed as cowgirls manned sampling tables and gave customers brochures that included information about the individual products.

The promotion encompassed the entire store, including freezer aisles, dry aisles and the fresh fruits and vegetables sections.

"It just happens to be Idaho's day in the sun and I thought it was a great day for Idaho," said Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould, who was part of the state's 35-member trade mission to Mexico and Brazil.

Gould said the in-store promotion was a great way to inform Mexican consumers about Idaho products.

"We need to continue to educate the Mexican consumer as to what products we have," she said after the visit. "If they don't know what products are available or how to cook them or prepare them, we can't expect them to buy them."

Soriana is an increasingly important market for Idaho apples but the fruit was absent during the promotion. Mexico requires that apples be placed in cold storage for 90 days prior to being exported to the country, but the Idaho industry had one of its latest harvests ever this year and no Gem State apples were available for the promotion.

Soriana is already a large purchaser of Idaho products -- besides Idaho onions and apples, the company also sells products produced by several large Idaho potato processors -- and the visit and promotion were meant to strengthen ties between the two trading partners.

During the Dec. 8 meeting, both sides said they would like to expand their partnership and Idaho representatives reminded top-level Soriana officials that the state produces 185 different agricultural commodities.

"We have many other crops in Idaho," Lt. Gov. Brad Little said. "We're a high-quality, low-cost state and we know you're interested in both."

Miguel de la Pena Silva, the sub-director of perishables for Soriana's super-stores, told Idaho officials he welcomes "the opportunity to find more business with you. We do believe we can do more (business) tomorrow."

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