Food miles awareness drives UK potato sales

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Potatoes

Consumption of potatoes - both fresh and dehydrated - is on the
rise in the UK according to Mintel, a parallel trend attributed to
increased awareness of food miles and desire for convenience.

In its new report Potatoes​, the market researcher valued the UK fresh potato market at £855m (c €1,255m), representing almost 60 per cent of the overall potato market in the UK. In 2006 British shoppers spent just under 1.5bn on potatoes (including chilled convenience, dehydrated, fresh prepared and canned potatoes) - an increase of 20 per cent since 2001. Potatoes are excluded from the five-a-day fruit and veg advice, and as more and more people strive to stick to healthy diet recommendations this would have had an effect on consumption. Now, however, it seems this factor is being offset by other consumer considerations. "People are becoming increasingly aware of food miles, seasonal product and support for local farmers, and Mintel believes that this trend offers the fresh potato sector the means to resume its fashionable status,"​ said senior analyst Julie Sloan. The report compares sales of fresh potatoes to other carbohydrate sources, and finds that they considerably out-rank dry pasta and rice, which have sales of £105m (€154m) and £264m (€388m) respectively. "With potatoes on our doorstep, there is little doubt that more modern carbohydrate alternatives, such as rice and pasta, cannot compete with the clear conscience shopping of buying home grown potatoes,"​ said Sloan. Mintel has also identified a trend towards more up-market, premium varieties of potato. But at the other end of the scale, dehydrated potato such as Smash is enjoying a revival - so much so that it is a driving force for growth in the overall potato market. Volume sales of dehydrated potato are said to have increased 22 per cent since 2004, to 13,000 tonnes in 2006. These statistics seem contradictory given the shift away from processed foods and increased interest in cooking from scratch. But at the same time, consumers are keen on convenience - and it is considerably more convenient to pour hot water onto powdered potato after a day's work than it is to peel, boil and mash fresh spuds. Sloan said: "The strength of the Smash brand and the fact that they continue to launch new varieties has also helped boost popularity."​ However the upswing of fresh potatoes may not be sustainable - in the short term, at least. A report from the British Potato Council last month said that difficult growing conditions in 2006 resulted in reduced yield and lower total production. Unseasonably warm weather last summer caused crops to fall by up to 15 per cent in important growing regions such as France and the Netherlands.

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