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Irish Consumers Like Their Potatoes

Potatoes are bought every second by Irish consumers. So says Cliona Lynch, Kantar Worldpanel who spoke at the National Potato Conference in Dublin, Ireland, Feb. 20.

In total, 1.67 million households purchase potatoes annually. Eleven per cent of all shopping trips in thecountry consist of potatoes. And, when a bag of “spuds” is included in a shopping cart, it contributes €27.90 more to the retailer, as consumers are usually carrying out “a big shop”.

According to Lynch, there are two main factors that influence consumer purchasing: life stage and cohort. She explained that consumers change what they consume over time, but they also carry behaviour with them. So, if someone has always bought marmalade or potatoes, they will continue to buy those products.

Lynch also explained consumers are now moving back to potatoes from frozen potato products, sweet potatoes and couscous. However, while potatoes remain the largest carbohydrate of the main meal, rice, pasta and frozen pizza remain strong competitors.

Potatoes (71 per cent) and frozen potato products (13 per cent) account for 84 per cent of main meal carbohydrates.

Potato sales in Ireland dropped in 2017, as consumers bought less volume and at a lower price. Shoppers bought an average volume of 3.4kg per shopping trip – a reduction of 2.9 per cent.

In 2017, the average volume of potatoes bought per household was 125kg/year. And 2.5-5kg bags of potatoes have seen an increase in popularity since 2016, while 5-7.5kg bags have seen a decline.

Roosters continue to be the dominant variety for sale in the country. However, Golden Wonders are becoming more popular among consumers, due to preference and a growth in frequency.

Dunnes Stores is the number one retailer of potatoes in Ireland and its share is growing year-on-year. Aldi consumers have been reported to be returning more often and paying a higher price for potatoes.

Potato growers get less than 20 per cent of the retail price

Meanwhile, potato growers get less than a fifth of the retail price that a consumer pays for their produce, according to the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Joe Healy, who outlined how retailers are taking the lion’s share of the margin on potatoes, while farmers bear all the risk.

Organized by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) in association with Bord Bia and Teagasc, delegates at the National Potato Conference heard that pre-pack potatoes are retailing at up to €1,400/t; while growers receive less than 20 per cent of that.

“Many potato growers are having to sell their crop for less than it costs to produce,” said Healy. “That situation cannot be sustained; the price the farmer gets has to rise just to cover storage costs alone. Retailers and packers have to wake up to that and act now if they want to have a potato industry in the future.”

Stronger retail regulation and an independent retail ombudsman are needed to ensure farmers get a fairer share of the retail price, and to support a sustainable food supply chain, the IFA president warned.

He also said he believes it is imperative the recommendations of the Agricultural Markets Task Force are implemented.

“Growers make an investment of €60 million each year to grow Ireland’s 22,000 ac of potato and ensure a top quality product is consistently available to packers, supermarkets and the food service sector.

“In return, processors and retailers who rely on their product must return to them a fair price and stop undermining the market with surplus imports,” Healy said.

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