All latest News, Events, News January 2023, North America

A successful event, great experience: Potato Expo attendance returns to pre-pandemic levels

On Jan. 4-5, more than 1,800 U.S. potato growers and industry members from a dozen countries turned out for Potato Expo 2023, hosted by the National Potato Council, at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora, Colorado, to do business and prepare their operations for the future.

Celebrating its 15th year, Potato Expo 2023 broke previous attendance records for an event hosted outside of Las Vegas, with 1,816 registered attendees and 175 exhibitors covering more than 90,000 square feet in the Aurora Exhibit Hall.

“The tremendous support of our attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors at this year’s event is evidence that Potato Expo is back to its pre-pandemic status as the premier gathering for the North American potato industry,” said Jared Balcom, current NPC President and potato grower from Pasco, Wash.

“However, the Potato Expo isn’t about numbers – it’s about experiences. And once again, we were pleased to offer the industry some new, unique opportunities to learn and grow their businesses… and have fun while doing it!”  

NPC CEO Kam Quarles added that while the record-breaking attendance was due in part to attendees’ desire to meet in person post-COVID, “I applaud our NPC team for their outstanding efforts in creating a compelling and creative program for our exhibitors and growers who look forward to attending the Expo every year.”

Live recording of the Eye on Potatoes Podcast during a Potato Talks session titled, “CEO Roundtable, Teamwork Across the Potato Industry.” From left to right: Eye on Potatoes Podcast host Lane Nordlund; Alison Bodor, President & CEO of the American Frozen Food Institute; Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council; and Blair Richardson, President & CEO of Potatoes USA. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography

For the first time on the Expo stage, attendees were treated to a special potato-themed cook-off, “This Spud’s for You – Celebrity Chef Edition,” hosted by Ted Allen, the Emmy Award-winning host of Chopped and Chopped Junior.

Two Colorado potato industry chefs (Jason Morse, CEC, owner and executive chef of 5280 Culinary in Littleton, Colo., and RJ Harvey, RDN, CEC, the Culinary Director of Potatoes USA) paired up with Food Network personalities Duff Goldman and Simon Majumdar for a competition around creating dishes that put potatoes at the center of the plate.

Working with Yellow Potatoes donated by Bob Mattive from Hi-Land Potatoes in San Luis Valley, Colorado, and Caribou Russet Potatoes donated by Dominic LaJoie from LaJoie Farms in Van Buren, Maine, the teams were tasked with preparing a main dish as well as their “best version of mashed potatoes.”

After nearly 50 minutes, a split championship was announced with Team Simon and RJ winning for their spicy laksa, a Malaysian dish typically made with noodles, while Team Duff and Jason won for their flavorful mashed potato creation. The two Colorado chefs also appeared earlier on local Denver television shows promoting the Expo and sharing their unique Mashed Potato Board recipes during live in-studio and on-location cooking demonstrations.

Potato Expo serves as a forum to foster collaboration between national and state potato associations, as well as the rest of the industry. Maintaining its reputation as a place to help better position the industry for the future, the Potato Expo 2023 addressed many current topics from weather trends to sustainability to new export opportunities.

Daniel Metheringham, Vice President of Agriculture, McCain Foods USA, speaks during a breakout session titled, “Defining Regenerative Agriculture in Potato Production.” Pictured from left to right: Mike Wenkel, COO, National Potato Council; Ryan Findlay, Regional Lead Business Development, Rabo Carbon Bank; Daniel Metheringham; and Gerhard Bester, Sr. Director, Frito Lay. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography

The National Potato Council, the Potato Expo’s organizer, also produces the “Eye on Potatoes Podcast.” Sponsored by Syngenta, the podcast is available on a number of different platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

It provides a platform for growers throughout the country and policy makers in Washington to learn about the industry policy priorities and hear from growers and experts on the latest issues affecting the industry.

Two live podcasts were recorded on Expo Stage: “CEO Roundtable, Teamwork Across the Potato Industry,” featuring the CEOs of the American Frozen Food Institute, Potatoes USA, and National Potato Council; and “View From the Top,” featuring past, current and incoming National Potato Council presidents. During the sessions, Syngenta announced it has renewed its sponsorship for the podcast through 2023.

With diverse industry voices all in one place, the National Potato Council conducted interviews with attendees on a wide range of compelling topics that will be shared on upcoming episodes of “Eye on Potatoes.” Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography

The event also highlighted the importance of the Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (Potato LEAF), a 501(c)3 organization that provides tools, training, and support necessary to help growers and industry members develop as leaders.

During the Kick-off Reception, live and silent auctions were held which raised nearly $60,000 for the Foundation. More information about Potato LEAF can be found at pleaf.org.

Washington potato grower and former NPC President Randy Mullen served as the auctioneer for the Potato LEAF live auction, held on the Expo Stage. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography

Potato Expo 2024 will be held January 10-11 in Austin, Texas. More information is available at potato-expo.com.

Source: National Potato Council
Cover image: Potato Expo Steering Committee members cut the ribbon to open Potato Expo 2023 at the entrance of the Expo Hall. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography
More photos: Downloadable images are available at https://www.nationalpotatocouncil.org/potato-expo/photo-gallery/.

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