Potato industry told to seize opportunities

There are real opportunities for the industry to optimise the fresh potato category and build long-term demand, delegates were told at the biannual Potato Council Retail Conference in London earlier this month.

New research commissioned by the Potato Council has revealed that four out of 10 shoppers make the decision to buy potatoes in-store - with three in 10 making the purchasing decision at the potato fixture. This makes merchandising and layout a significant opportunity for the category.

Potato Council chairman Allan Stevenson presided over the day's programme and was joined by head of marketing and corporate affairs Caroline Evans, as well as speakers from Kantar Worldpanel, the Oxford Partnership and IGD.

The Oxford Partnership's Colin Boxell explained the impact of the research results. "The potato fixture meets current expectations but needs to do more to interest and inspire shoppers," he said.

"Simple considerations such as adopting shopper-friendly language related to the potatoes' usage and size such as 'new' or 'salad', 'everyday' and 'baking' have real potential to positively influence purchasing behaviour.

"Likewise, drawing on experiences from other categories, which have seen great success using colour coding and visual clues, will help shoppers better navigate the potato fixture."

Evans highlighted that this ties into feedback from consumers, who say they want more advice when it comes to varieties and usage. "There is an appetite for more information and we need to make sure we are encouraging consumers to understand the breadth of the potato offer," she said. "Improving understanding has the potential to help build loyalty and encourage consumers to trade up to named varieties.

"To make sure potatoes remain regularly in shopping baskets, promoting meals with potatoes is key - particularly to young families who are eating fewer potatoes than their parents. This needs to be supported by continued consumer education about their health benefits."

NEW EXPORT MARKET

Potato growers are being given the chance to export to a new market - Russia. The country's ware stocks are low after its drought last year and it needs some four-million tonnes of ware potatoes to meet demand.

The current price for potatoes in Russia is reportedly around £250 per tonne. This is much more than the UK price of around £150 per tonne.

A Potato Council representative told Grower: "Russia's potato season last year was so bad that they are importing a lot of material - not just from the UK but from all over Europe."

- For more information on this opportunity, call the Potato Council's seed and export division on 01314 724149.


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