Even if potato sales volumes were to decline in the Netherlands, potato processor, Quik’s, would not suffer. The potato market is very sentimental and this affects the mood. Once the seed potatoes go into the ground, the experts start following the weather and the plants’ flowering closely. They want to get a feel for tuber formation and the potato’s growth. After harvesting, yields are estimated and then the (storage) quality assessments start. Once the potatoes finally find their way to consumers, there is much ado about the potato’s popularity. Wim Paans is responsible for purchasing and selling table potatoes at Quik’s. He remains sober about all this. He prefers to look and the facts, and then don his creative glasses.
Quik’s team - Wim Paans (links), Peter Hoogendoorn, Kees van Veldhoven and Peter Quik.
Migration, globalization, and digitalization are leaving a clear mark on people’s diets. Potatoes used to be on the menu every day. Now, there is competition from rice, pasta, grains, and out-of-home dining. The puts volumes under pressure. However, there is no question of declining table potato volumes at Quik’s. Wim says, “Our volumes are not falling per se, they are, however, changing. We do more units and special things, such as ensuring an exciting assortment and focusing on other times when food is consumed. This balances out the scales. We also do a lot of overseas exports. The retail sector in the Benelux and Scandinavia are our most important sales markets.”
Steaming bag - packaging with a steam valve - are a convenient solution for fresh potatoes. Various packaging plants now offer these.
There is still very little to say about the new season. Only that the growing season started with a lack of precipitation. That is a fact. “But, better weather can change the picture. When it is too dry, irrigation must be used. Our growers also do that wherever possible,” says Wim. He can summarize this past season in a few keywords - turbulent, with high prices. The November 2018 crop estimates were 20% lower than average, This was a result of 2018’s very dry summer. The potatoes’ storage quality was also very sub par. Wim: “Stocks ran out faster than usual this year. However, as a respected partner, we anticipated this. We secured everything for our fixed buyers. It was a challenge to supply new clients this season, though.”
Crops can fail or succeed, but consumer behavior is just as difficult to gauge. When adjusting programs, Quik’s relies on the facts - figures derived from their business activities. They also make use of research companies’ market data. “We are a chain partner for our suppliers and clients. They rely on us to get the best price for their products and to ensure all their potatoes are sold. We also invest money to gain insight into market movements. We discuss these with our clients so as to get the best out of their product. We work on an international scale, so we learn from what is happening across the border. Many places can supply potatoes in a 5kg bag. But does this 5kg have to be packed in this way?” asks Wim.
Special packaging with potatoes suitable for grilling and bbq
Large volumes of potatoes are still sold through traditional channels. Wim has, however, noticed a gradual shift taking place. “People are starting to look more at characteristics. Consumers want a component for their meals. So, rather a mashing, salad or fry potato than a floury or waxy one. That makes varieties less important. There is, however, a counter-movement. There is a growing demand for ‘sentimental’ potatoes - potatoes with a backstory.”
The market is slowly moving toward use-orientated shelves and its associated packaging. “It is crucial to study consumers closely, especially the younger generation who do not know much about potato varieties. They want to know what they can do with a potato. Compare it to buying paint for a DIY job. The buyer wants to know which type of paint is suitable to which surface. When you put mashing potatoes on the shelf, this speaks more to the imagination than calling it a floury potato,” Wim points out.
Potato box for foodservice
“Choose packaging and varieties and do not be afraid to swap these for something different. Play in on the seasons and holidays by offering exciting solutions. For example, purple potatoes for the holidays or barbecue potatoes in the summer.“
Whether a creative idea will work, is a matter of trying. “People’s tastes are difficult to capture. In one region, something sells well; in another, it seems to be struggling to gain momentum. There are general trends you can base your ideas on. Demographic developments are a fact. You can be sure that, in the future, there will be more of a demand for smaller rather than larger packaging.” There is also a growing demand for convenience. According to Wim, there is still a world to be won here. “At Quik’s, we offer frozen as well as ultra-fresh convenience solutions. But, in between, there is still an area we can fill.”
Appearance of potatoes is becoming increasingly important
“But, we also like to share ideas about the whole fruit and vegetable department, and even the store as a whole. Cross-selling can allow products to greatly strengthen each other. You can send consumers through the whole store to put together their meal. But you would have to think about presenting products as part of a meal package. New potatoes and asparagus sell really well in the spring. But, present them, together, at a combined price. Or with, for example, ham and eggs. I think you will sell a whole lot more this way,” concludes Wim.