According to the latest figures, Northern Ireland’s potato packing sector has grown by 3.9% over the past year in terms of total turnover. All the sector’s key parameters -including frequency of purchase and volumes purchased per retail visit- are up, with one obvious exception.
Wilson’s Country managing director Lewis Cunningham: “The average price of potatoes in the shops has fallen over the past 12 months. The Kantar survey confirms an average price per kilo of 82p for the 52 week period ending June 30th 2020. This represents a 4.2% reduction on the previous 12 months.”
Potato sales in Northern Ireland for the past year totalled £50.83m, representing a 3.9% increase on the previous 12 months. Sales volumes increased by 8.5% during the same, period, exceeding 60,000 tons.
Lewis Cunningham: “Individual purchase volumes increased by 6.4% over the past year. Potatoes now enjoy a 97.6% retail penetration in Northern Ireland. That’s up 1.4% on 2019 levels. All of these trends point to a very positive story for the local potato sector. They also confirm the growing consumption of potatoes in homes. Significantly, these trends became apparent before the introduction of the Covid-19 lockdown.”
“We saw the expected, seasonal boost in potato consumption at Christmas time 2019. However, this momentum was maintained into the New Year. There’s also little doubt that the lockdown measures have encouraged more people to cook at home more frequently, across the board.”
But it’s not all good news for the potato industry. “The lockdown measures almost wiped out potato sales into the service and catering sectors. And it’s doubtful if we will see demand from these industries fully recover anytime soon,” Cunningham explained.
“The eat-out to help-out scheme, launched a few days ago, has already resulted in an increase in orders to us and is a really welcome development. Potato sales have fared well over the past 12 months. It is to be hoped that the trend towards more people cooking more often at home will be maintained. However, potato packers are taking nothing for granted. There is an onus on companies like Wilson’s Country to continue investing in new ways of making fresh potatoes more attractive to consumers across the board.”