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.
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
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.