Spuds we all like – consumers dig potatoes again

December 18, 2009

They have been attacked for their less than exciting image, ignored by low carb dieters and ostracised from the five a day allowance, but new research from Mintel finds that the fortunes of the humble spud have turned – just in time for Christmas dinner – as today, potatoes are eaten by 97% of the British population.
Valued at £1.7 billion in 2009, sales of potatoes have grown a smashing 27% since 2004. And the future is set to be equally as steamy for the simple spud, with volume sales forecast to increase by 6% in the next 5 years to reach 2.3 million tonnes. Meanwhile, value sales of potatoes will increase a further 23% in the next five years, and by 2013, we’ll be chipping, mashing and boiling our way through £2 billion worth of the stuff.
While we’re still not back to the good old days when every meal was ‘meat and two veg’ and the ‘low carb revolution’ has had its impact, today over one in four (27%) Brits eat potatoes more often than they did a year ago, with just 9% cutting back on their habit. What is more, only 8% of us see potatoes as boring and just 6% see them as fattening. The majority (60%) of British consumers say potatoes are tasty and (65%) find them nutritious.
Ben Perkins, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel said:”Flying in the face of low-carb diet trends of the past, our research finds that potatoes are a staple food eaten by almost all the population, and sales are rising. Recent economic conditions have provided an ideal opportunity for the industry to tap into trends such as nostalgia and indulgence. Indeed, as the recession has progressed, British consumers have been turning to classic comfort foods, many of which use potatoes as a key ingredient, such as Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash and Shepherd’s Pie. “
Within the sector, fresh potatoes make up two thirds (65%) of the market by value (and over three quarters (77%) by volume). Meanwhile, although accounting for a much smaller value share, it is frozen chips (20%) and chilled potatoes (at just 2%) which are amongst the sectors star performers. Between 2004 and 2009, sales of chilled potatoes grew 81%, while fresh potatoes and frozen chips grew 32% and 27% respectively. By contrast, there has been something of a starchy reception for canned potatoes and dehydrated potatoes, which have seen a decline in growth of 25% and 21% respectively in the past five years.
“Engaging consumers with all types of potatoes in different parts of their diet will be key to encouraging future growth. As the economy recovers, consumers will trade back up to premium products, creating opportunities for organic products and premium named varieties. Convenience and health will continue to be the driving forces behind the market, with future new product development likely to feature functional benefits as potatoes revive their healthy image.” Ben continues.
Meanwhile, when it comes to purchasing potatoes, it seems that the popularity of local food has weathered the economic climate. Despite difficult economic conditions, many consumers remain loyal to box schemes and farmers’ markets and shops, with sales increasing 24% in the last three years alone.

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