Potato demand in Sweden has been on the rise in the last two years, despite seeing some setbacks in 2010-2011 when reports about the GI (Glycemic Index) were flooding the news, causing consumers to think twice about how potatoes fit into a healthy lifestyle.
“It was really tough there for a while when all of the GI reports came out, but I am happy to say that the future is looking a lot brighter. I think that the unique potato varieties have been generating a lot of renewed interest. We have a younger generation of consumers who are really tuned in and once they become interested in something, they really want to explore and learn everything about it. I have also found that once they try something they like, they keep on coming back for more,” said Anders Ericsson, from LEV & Co.
One of the newer niche varieties that has been getting a lot of attention on social media is the Apache potato. Launched exclusively for Swedish retailers and food service 5 years ago by LEV & Co, in cooperation with Scottish potato producer Albert Bartlett, the speckled red and white potatoes can be found exclusively in major Swedish retailer ICA.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Apache potato is something different than the average variety. With wild origins, it belongs to the Solanum phureja family, as opposed to Solanum tuberosum which is pretty much the only types of potatoes on the market. The different genes are what makes it unique, with a slightly sweet flavour when roasted, along with a shorter cooking time of 10-20% compared to the common potato. It is only one of 2 or 3 potatoes available on the Swedish market that stem from the wild potato gene.
“The Apache is a great variety, it’s something really different. We have always found it important to be in the forefront of development, in terms of varieties and packaging. Unfortunately, as soon as we come with something new, the competition always come around 6 months later with a copy paste version of our work. Signing an exclusive agreement with ICA to sell our niche varieties, was a way to secure our market and we have found that it has been working very well.”
“The only downside for us is that it is almost too different for some consumers to try, and they almost seem a bit afraid of it. It is new and looks different to regular yellow potatoes and they just decide to go for something safe. The same happens with some of the blue varieties and other potatoes we have been trying, and it can really be a challenge to get them to try it for the first time.”
Anders said that they believe that it is very important to go on the offensive with marketing to get these different potatoes to succeed. Supermarkets have also said that the value of these potatoes is not about sales quantities at the moment, it is about adding a product that adds interest to the supermarket shelves which in the end boosts overall potato sales.
“We have been busy promoting the potatoes on social media, like instagram, but we have found that the most effective type of marketing to generate interest is to get a celebrity chef on board. We see that the top chefs and restaurants make a great market for these types of varieties because they are always looking for something new and different which offers a different flavour.
“We continue the search for new things. We are looking at adding red fleshed and even orange fleshed potatoes to our offering. The orange fleshed potatoes actually have slight relations to carrots, which adds another dimension to the flavour, along with extra colour. We are really putting a lot of energy and time to make sure that we are first with innovations in the Swedish market,”
The key is in reaching out to consumers in the right way. Finding these exciting and new varieties is not the difficult part, the difficulty is getting the consumers just as excited as we are.” concluded Anders.