Iowa Public Television


Innovative Campaign puts a Face on the Farmer

posted on December 30, 2010

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In 1963, the advertising firm of Young and Rubicam created an innovative advertising campaign for Lays Potato Chips utilizing the slogan, "betcha can't eat just one." With Bert Lahr, the well-known actor who played the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz," as the pitchman, the "betcha can't eat just one" campaign proved to be quite a success.

These days though, snack items like potato chips often are labeled as "junk food" and the people who produce the goods often are blamed for contributing to America's growing problem of obesity.

Now, nearly 50 years after the original "betcha can't eat just one" campaign debuted, Lays is at again. But this time the goal is to put a face on the American farmer. Laurel Bower Burgmaier explains.

With a plethora of movements out there to eat healthy, fight obesity, and to exercise, it's easy to forget the people who produce the abundance of food available in the United States. While health and wellness campaigns deliver important messages to the public, sometimes farmers can be misunderstood. That's why a recent campaign decided to put a "face on the farmer".

Brian Walther, Three Rivers, Michigan: "Walther Farms is a third generation family farm. My grandfather started it in the 1940s."

Jack Wallace Jr., Edinburg, Texas: "We're located in deep south Texas along the Mexican border. Our main crop is potatoes."

Brian Kirschenmann, Bakersfield, California: "We are located in Bakersfield, California, in the San Joaquin Valley. We've been growing potatoes in California for over 100 years."

More than 80 farms from 27 states grow the potatoes used in Lay's potato chips. Last year alone, America's farmers produced over 2.5 billion pounds of potatoes for the snack giant.

Frito-Lay North America is the $13 billion convenient foods business unit of PepsiCo. But sales for Lay's grew by less than one percent from 2005 to 2007. According to company officials, much of the slowdown was caused by health and wellness initiatives. So, Lay's decided to acknowledge consumer concerns about the ingredients used in its products.

Linda Bethea, Frito-Lay: "I think a lot of people didn't realize real potatoes go into our Lay's chips. Having our farmers share that story puts a face to their food. They're real people growing the ingredients that go into Lay's potato chips. We want our consumers to see those people and hear their stories."

This past summer, Lay's unveiled a 70-foot long mobile greenhouse in six cities –New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas. The goal was to bring the farm experience to some of the nation's largest metropolitan areas. Market to Market caught up with the tour in the ultimate urban environment, New York City's iconic Times Square.

Brian Kirschenmann, Bakersfield, California: "You have a disconnect between agriculture and the consumers and that's why we're here in New York City. We're here in the U.S. growing our food and we're proud. We're promoting family farms and promoting locally grown. I think it's a good campaign!"

Lanza Family, North Jersey, New Jersey – "I think you take it for granted. When you buy food, you don't really realize all of the work that goes into it, getting the product to market and the people behind it. It's neat to see some farmers, that they are growing the food we eat."

Heinze Family, Houston, Texas – "It's good to know where foods come from, to make that connection and to know potatoes are grown. I mean, to know potato chips come from a plant. You need to make that connection or kids don't know."

The Lay's Mobile Farm tour is an extension of its television campaign launched last year featuring farmers that grow Lay's potato chips. The promotion highlighted seven local farmers in regions across the country whose potatoes have gone into Lay's products since 1974.

Jack Wallace Jr., Edinburg, Texas – "It's important to know we're in America. We want products that are grown in America. And that's what Lay's is trying to do is put a face on the growers that are producing the product they are selling. I think that's a very positive thing."

Brian Walther, Three Rivers, Michigan: "The average consumer really wants to know where his or her food is coming from. Is it safe? It's good to interact with the farmer and put a face behind the food, and our multi-generational story is a great one to share."

At the end of each stop, the contents of the Lay's mobile greenhouse are donated to local community gardens, resulting in the planting of vegetables and fruits in urban areas. While some Lay's products are considered junk-food in nature, company representatives hope these steps will show consumers they are making efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles. And the farmers also are committed to raising public awareness in the nutritional value of their products.

Linda Bethea, Frito-Lay: "Going forward, we're converting all of our Lay's flavors to natural ingredients –no preservatives, no MSGs, just real, natural ingredients that you see in the mobile greenhouse."

Jack Wallace Jr., Edinburg, Texas: "I just want people to know that in our product, there are three basic ingredients –potato, oil and salt. That's it. I'm the biggest chip eater there is and I enjoy it! I support what I do personally!"

For Market to Market, I'm Laurel Bower Burgmaier.


Tags: agriculture farmers innovation marketing New York news potatoes