Experts indicate innovative packaging, niche varieties, meeting consumers’ needs as well as educating children is critical.
Several factors were identified by researchers and statisticians as the cause for the decline in potato consumption. The decline in the number of family members currently residing in one household across the country is considered the most probable reason. With large families becoming more and more uncommon there is no need to purchase large bags of potatoes. Instead, smaller, two- to four-person households may only buy one potato per person in bulk during a trip to the grocery store.
Another factor that could account for the decline in potato consumption is the increasingly diverse ethnic make-up of the country as newcomers to Canada choose to continue to eat the foods in keeping with their culture, such as rice or noodles.
As well, the low-carbohydrate diet craze of the 1990s and early 2000s tagged potatoes as a food to be avoided. Efforts to educate the public about the nutritional value of potatoes have paid off in recent years, but consumption levels have not rebounded, and experts agree more education may be needed.
In a study on the shift observed in potato consumption conducted in 2003, Statistics Canada reported half of Canada’s potato production goes to the fresh market and the other half to processed foods. Consumption of fresh potatoes showed a steady decline, as did the consumption of frozen potato products, such as French fries. Processed potato products, such as pressed potato chips and dehydrated products, showed a slight increase. So, what should the industry be doing to stop the downward slide?
Education is Key
“Potatoes are a vegetable and although they are a source of carbohydrates they are different from bread,” explains Kendra Mills, marketing director for the Prince Edward Island Potato Board. “We need to view the changes in consumption trends as an opportunity to educate consumers about the high nutritional value of potatoes and how they can fit into many meal plans.”
Mills says the greatest challenge the industry faces is providing education on nutrition and user-friendly cooking options to new Canadians and other consumers who have moved away from eating potatoes regularly.
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