Caroline Evans, Potato Councils head of marketing and corporate affairs, provides an outlook on the fresh potato sector.
Caroline Evans, Potato Councils head of marketing and corporate affairs, provides an outlook on the fresh potato sector:
2012 was a challenging growing season, with exceptional weather conditions impacting on the GB crops size and quality. Shoppers have seen price rises in store and there have been many stories about the cost of food within the media. Even in this difficult season, eight out of ten shoppers (78%) would rather buy British potatoes.
A key opportunity for 2013 is giving shoppers a clear reason to buy a specific line; building loyalty and encouraging trading up. A segment of shoppers are willing to pay more if it benefits them. Shoppers see potatoes as healthy, but there is still a lack of knowledge about their nutritional benefits and these messages are important to give them a reason to buy.
In 2012 the market has remained stable, with a marginal volume decline year-on-year of 1.1%. Price inflation has been a major driver for the increase in the overall value of the fresh potato category, which has grown 4.3%. The average price per kg is now 0.70 compared to 0.64p a year ago.
As shoppers finances are stretched they buy cheaper lines. Economy potatoes now make up about one in every twenty (5.6%) packs purchased, which is up 12.3% in 2012. However, results for the quarter show a marked drop in sales of these lines, while whites recorded significant growth. If shoppers have a clear reason to buy they are willing to pay more, chilled potato sales continue to grow at an average price of 3.53 per kg.
Role of promotions
28.8% of potato volumes were sold on promotion in 2012, which is 9.5% lower than in 2011. The most common promotion is a price reduction on a specific line. Shoppers see potatoes as a staple, so tend to look at relative price. Three in ten shoppers (30%) say they would just buy the bag on offer, however, four in ten (43%) express a preference to use a specific variety. Promotions can be an important shopper marketing tool when used to deliver a defined objective, such as encouraging trial of a new line.
Potential to pay more, if theres a real benefit
Despite the fact that higher food prices, and in particular the cost of potatoes, have been hitting the headlines, there is still the potential to encourage shoppers to trade up. Four in every ten (39%) shoppers say they would pay more for better cooking results. This presents a significant opportunity to drive value for the category; a move from whites to a named variety such as Maris Piper could equate to an additional 56m per annum.
In 2013 the challenge is to give shoppers a clear reason to buy mid-tier named varieties.
Capitalising on health credentials
There remains a small group (5%) who do not think potatoes are healthy, but the vast majority of shoppers do. There is an opportunity to build on this positive base, by improving understanding of their credentials and debunking the myth that potatoes make you fat, which is still believed by a third (33%) of shoppers.
In June this year health will be the headline message of the EU co-financed Many Faces of Potatoes campaign that will include PR activity, a TV advert and roadshows. This will focus on potatoes as naturally fat free and as a source of vitamin C.