EOTN- United Potato Growers of Canada (Summer 2010)

United Potato Growers of Canada

By Wayne Dorsey

Consumer confidence and attitudes are real; if your business requires a consumer you must be aware of his/her wishes and wants every day—but never assume that every day will be the same.

Modern media and information sharing allow consumers unlimited ability to change their buying habits as positive or negative events unfold. The potato industry is not immune to consumer changes; we need to endeavour to make those changes positive.

Potato production in 2009 was at its second lowest level in the past 14 years, but returns to producers are at alltime lows. Marketing and research professionals are now scrambling to find answers that, in the end, may not be all that surprising. The last 18 months has seen the entire world in economic turmoil, and some consumers have been forced to make lifestyle decisions that affect everything they do, including changing their eating habits.

This change started many years ago with working families seeking more convenient and so-called healthier menu options. Pasta, pizza, hot dogs, salads, etc., became replacements for traditional in-home meals. The last 18 months have only magnified potato consumption issues. All levels of the restaurant trade have been negatively affected, from quick-service outlets to fine dining restaurants, traffic has been down, and potato product sales are down even more than traffic. On top of this, export sales of frozen fries were also trending downward, but are now making a slight recovery.

Producers must educate themselves to the realities of consumption trending downward. As part of their mandate to bring the most timely, factual messages possible to potato producers throughout North America, the United Potato Growers of Canada, United Potato Growers of America, and the Potato Marketing Association of North America endeavour to track consumption trends and share this information with producers so that timely business decisions can be made.