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Spud Sunday: National Spuds

It’s been a long time coming, but I figure that the time is ripe to say it loud and say it proud: my name is Spud and I am a spud-a-holic (now, hands up all who are in any way surprised by this news – anyone? no, didn’t think so…).

At any rate, there can be precious few other reasons to explain why, last Wednesday, I found myself at the National Potato Conference. Yes, such a thing exists and I was there.

Mr Tayto

Mr Tayto was there too:
small wonder, as around 10% of the Irish potato
crop is used to make Tayto and other crisps in the
Largo Foods range

The conference, an annual event organised by Teagasc and the Irish Farmer’s Assocation in association with Bord Bia, is primarily aimed at potato farmers and discussing the not inconsiderable challenges which face that particular industry (not least the difficulties of achieving any kind of a profit margin while being continually squeezed by the supermarkets).

While some of the workshops on offer (such as minimising losses due to blackleg**) were quite specific to commercial growing, I was particularly interested in the results of market research into consumer attitudes to potatoes, as presented by Lorcan Bourke of Bord Bia. And yes, it’s a topic you’ve read about here before.

The research focused particularly on females aged 22 to 44, whom they regarded as the gatekeepers when it comes to deciding what carbohydrates will be served at meals for themselves, their partners and/or their children. There was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a certain perception of potatoes as being traditional and a tendency to serve spuds in the meat and two veg mode, while 22% said that they would use potatoes if they had more interesting recipe ideas. They didn’t say what percentage of respondents were readers of The Daily Spud but, based on their results, I would say very few (note to self: must try harder at the whole world spud domination thing).

The broad conclusion from the research? Investment is required in marketing the potato and in giving its image an overhaul – give people new and convenient recipes to try, provide them with whole meal suggestions and education about varieties – “offer aspiration & provide inspiration,” as Lorcan Bourke put it. I think I could have told them that without the expensive market research.

To take on the marketing challenge, a cross-industry potato promotion group, involving the Irish Farmer’s Association and Irish Potato Federation under the auspices of Bord Bia, will, together, undertake a major potato marketing initiative over next 3-5 years. I’ll be watching with interest and (as ever) doing my bit for the spud.

** I’ve always thought blackleg best referred to using pirate-speak – ‘arrr, that be the dreaded blackleg, that be’ – but maybe that’s just me…

6 Comments

  1. Ange

    Shiver me timbers Spud – enough o’dem taters ‘n’ there be no more scurvey on the seas o’ the high teas.;)

  2. Daily Spud

    On the high teas, Ange? You’d best be breaking out the cucumber sandwiches there matey! :D

  3. JanAnderson

    The big mistake is in thinking of spuds as ‘just’ carbohydrates. As the reference to scurvy illustrates, the Vitamin C content alone sets the potato above rice and pasta. Now that everyone is cutting back on carbs, they need to make the carbs they do consume count for so much more than mere filler. Potatoes fill that bill!

  4. Daily Spud

    Jan, I could not agree more with you! Let’s hope that this promotions group does a good job of getting messages like that across.

  5. ValleyWriter

    Here in the US, potatoes definitely get a bad rap. But I personally think that’s because most people think only of eating them fried or smothered in butter. I, for one, appreciate the texture and taste of pure potato (something even my husband doesn’t understand!). We need a pro-potato campaign here, too!

  6. Daily Spud

    Hey ValleyWriter, lovely to hear from you! You’re right of course, lots of people (and not just in the U.S.) think of potatoes in terms of fries and lots of fat, but it doesn’t have to be that way (a little butter, yes please, but it doesn’t *have* to be smothered in the stuff).

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