The potato still holds its place as Ireland’s leading carbohydrate — with revenues of over €184m per year, it’s a vegetable we as a nation can be proud of.
Undoubtedly, potatoes have had to put up with a lot more competition and there was the fear that consumers are now purchasing ‘modern’ carbohydrates as a direct replacement to potatoes. However, recent figures contradicts this with rice, noodles and pasta revenues totalling €69m last year.
While sales of fresh potatoes have been trending downwards, having survived the recession, the humble but versatile spud is still a firm favourite in Irish kitchens. There’s no doubt about it, Irish people ‘love’ their spuds. But, we’re not buying bags of spuds like we used to and the plain old spud can be seen as old fashioned.
Factors to consider in the decline of potato consumption includes the anti-carb sentiment engineered by fad diets in recent years that potatoes are fattening, doing sales of potatoes no favours, when in fact it’s something of a superfood, with the potato containing more vitamin C than an orange, more potassium than a banana and more fibre than an apple. Also there is the perceived image that potatoes take too much time to prepare.
There will also be environmental factors, such as the weather, that will have a profound impact on growth and sales. After the good summer we experienced last year, high yields resulting in surplus produce and coupled with the decline in consumption led to very low prices for farmers this year.
One thing as growers we need to consistently do is to monitor the changes in consumption patterns. Consumers need a range of ‘meal solutions’ with versatility of use due to the fact that the spud is often seen as ‘too traditional’ for the modern diners. Convenience is key. We have been on the case for a number of years and recently noted successes with the launch of our new, innovative and flexible produce, such as our ‘Easy Cook’ range which has received an extremely positive response from consumers and has replaced traditional bag formats as our biggest selling line. Currently product sales are up 60% as a result, helping to attract consumers back to potato buying behaviours.
In a bid to re-invent the spud and heighten younger consumers awareness of potatoes, we pioneered National Potato Day, a day to celebrate the humble spud.
Supported by Bord Bia, National Potato Day worked extremely well and we hope to work with other growers to build on this in the future.
An important relationship that needs to be nurtured is that of the retailers and the grower.
We are working with many retailers, including the re-branded SuperValu stores, to stock new and innovative ranges targeted at the more convenience buyer. As a value for money product, potatoes are a key family staple. What we need to be doing is making the cooking of potatoes more ‘sexy’ by spicing up dishes and by creating more exciting ways for consumers to enjoy the vegetable, re-establishing it’s firm place in the market.
While there are some challenges ahead, the industry needs to come together to support one another. While a problem may be too big for one company to fight it, it’s the growers themselves that need to start marketing the product.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved