Growers and agronomists came together at AHDB’s Welsh Potato Day, held in Pembrokeshire, to discuss key challenges surrounding the potato industry.
Opening the discussion, Rebecca Hughes, consumer insight analyst, AHDB, brought the audience’s attention to consumer trends and how they impact on potatoes.
Miss Hughes said: "Although earnings are on the up, there is still a large proportion of consumers buying produce based on price alone.
"The rise in hard discounters such as Aldi and Lidl, who account for 10 per cent of the grocery market, has aided the fall in food price."
Despite this, when consumers were asked in a recent survey run by YouGov what the most off-putting aspects of buying fresh potatoes, the most popular response was not because of price but the fact bags are often too heavy to carry home and potatoes take too long to prepare.
Clearly, there are several issue that need to be addressed in order to make potatoes more attractive to an evolving market.
Convenience has become an increasingly important issue, to the extent that customers are willing to pay significantly more to make their lives easier.
Due to a shortage of time, consumers are spending less time preparing meals. "While 30 years ago households would spend around 60 minutes on average preparing evening meals, now it is down to 30 minutes on average."
"We need to find a way to make potatoes fit into a quicker, convenience orientated lifestyle," said Miss Hughes.
Consequently, prepared produce has taken over £16 million from the wholehead market in the last year.
As well as convenience, increasingly consumers are looking for products which deliver health benefits and that are low in calories, said Miss Hughes.
In order to halt the decline in consumption of fresh potatoes, AHDB have recently launched an EU funded campaign, ‘More than a bit on the side’.
As market research shows, many consumers perceive potatoes as unhealthy, inconvenient and unadventurous. These are factors that are increasingly important to the modern day consumer.
The campaign aims to disprove these myths and to highlight the fact that potatoes are actually fat free and a good source of potassium and fibre.
Kate Cox, AHDB potatoes marketing manager said: "It is a big challenge to let our target audience know that potatoes are healthy and fat free."
Inspiring, low calorie recipes shaped around healthy mid-week meals will be promoted widely across a range of media including social networking sites, magazines, and youtube.
The campaign has been targeted towards 22 to 44 year olds who, according to market research, typically dismiss potatoes as viable option for every day meals. By tackling this age group, AHDB hope to get more potatoes consumed during the week as opposed to just alongside a Sunday dinner.
Mrs Cox said "Our market research tells us the over 60s consume a lot more fresh potatoes than people aged between 25 to 34 so we have targeted this age group in particular in order to boost consumption.
"Our strategy is to be as constructive and creative as possible. Consumers are really busy so we need to try and grab their attention and reach them in an effective way."