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WPC Edinburgh 27-30 May 2012
UK: Growing potatoes for maximum returnAt this week's World Potato Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland, the issues of declining demand and the bad image of the potato were addressed.
Ronnie Bartlett, Managing Director of Albert Bartlett, a leading supplier of potatoes in the UK, spoke about how Albert Bartlett has increased sales of fresh potatoes, by raising consumer interest through extensive marketing campaigns.
The main problem back in 2000, according to Bartlett was consistency, growers grew potatoes to increase yield and look good. Consumers turned to easier, more consistent foods such as rice or pasta, the situation was not helped by media reporting on the "dangers of carbohydrates and French fries".
Bartlett explained that the place to start is with consumers, what do they want from a potato and where will it fit into the market? Bartletts concentrated on providing tasty potatoes, this combined with an extensive marketing campaign lead to promotion of the Rooster brand.
Nick Vermont, Regional CEO of McCain Food (GB) UK, echoed the advice to listen to the consumer. The French fry industry suffered huge damage back in 2005 when obesity became a massive global issue, leading to 100s of products being withdrawn from the supermarket shelves. Vermon explained that to combat this McCain immersed themselves in market research to find out exactly what the consumer wanted.
The research showed that consumer confidence in processed food was shattered. McCain launched a marketing campaign to rebuild this confidence, at least in the French fry market.
The company went with the policy, keep it simple. They reduced added salt by 22%, removed artificial colouring and used only sunflower oil on their products. The marketing went still further with new packaging, better labelling and a traffic light system to show consumers exactly what the products contained.
As a result McCain now enjoy 2.5% more market growth that the market average.
Both agree that the consumer is the starting point, find out what they want and work from there. Vermont also stressed the importance of being honest and producing authentic products in this age of social media where lies will always be found out.
"If you can build trust in a brand there are massive opportunities in the food sector," concluded Vermont.
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