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Bart Nemegheer, De Aardappelhoeve:

'This year marks a return to an upward trend in the sales of fresh potatoes'

The sale of fresh table potatoes has seen a notable increase this season, reports Bart Nemegheer from De Aardappelhoeve. "After years of declining consumption, it seems consumers have rediscovered their appreciation for fresh potatoes."

"Actually, this has been the case throughout the winter period," the seasoned trader continues. "We're moving significant volumes, but then the question arises whether this is only true for us or if others are experiencing the same. However, upon inquiry, it appears that everyone is noticing an upward trend in sales. Retailers are talking about an increase of around 5 percent compared to 2022." And that, Bart explains, is a very positive development. "Over the last 10 years, with the exception of the exceptional coronavirus years, there has been a steady decline in consumption. This was somewhat worrying, but the turnaround shows that the appreciation for the Belgian potato is making a comeback."

According to him, this can be attributed to several factors. "I think a number of elements play a role. For instance, potatoes are on the expensive side this season, but compared to, say, grains, it's still relatively moderate. The potatoes are more expensive due to the massive demand from the industry. Additionally, due to the floods in the autumn, some potatoes remained in the ground, which we now consider a loss. However, we will have to live with this new climatic reality, which brings its own risks. On the other hand, we've had years of working with very low prices, which was very challenging for the producers. A bit more expensive is not a problem then. Moreover, it seems people are willing to pay for it. Especially now that rice and pasta are even more expensive."

Culinary possibilities
"In addition, we've been focusing for years on highlighting how sustainable and healthy a potato is. Now that health is gaining more attention among consumers, this could also have led to a revaluation of the potato. Lastly, the potato has long shed its old-fashioned image. It's not just about boiling, frying, or deep-frying. Nowadays, there's a wide array of preparations across a broad spectrum of recipes. The younger generation in particular has discovered what they can do with a potato. There are many possibilities for seasoning, which allows for a lot of variety. This also explains its popularity among families, for instance. It's not always easy to get children to eat their vegetables, but a delicious mash with celeriac or carrot makes it a lot more appealing. All these small factors together contribute to the positive developments in the sale of fresh potatoes."

One way in which De Aardappelhoeve is capitalizing on these developments is with its brand The Potato Chef. "This was created to showcase the wide variety of potato possibilities and also takes away all the challenges of cooking with potatoes. This segment has been growing for years. And especially the seasoned variants are seeing double-digit volume growth each year. It's also convenient, right, because you no longer have to think about how to prepare the potatoes. There are bags with rosemary, onion, or garlic, which you simply fry up and it's ready to serve. Consumers can or no longer want to spend hours peeling, boiling, or seasoning potatoes, and we want to offer a choice for everyone in our assortment."

Organic out of the doldrums
While the signals are positive for conventional fresh potatoes, the organic segment has not always had it easy this season. "At the beginning of the year, organic was struggling. When the war broke out in Ukraine, people were very cautious with their spending. Organic goods were the first victim of this. However, we now see that sales have been showing an upward trend for the first time since October. It seems people are slowly willing to spend again, which is also bringing them back to organic. Now, we hope that this trend continues, so they can also benefit from the positive developments that conventional is experiencing again," Bart concludes.

For more information:
Bart Nemegheer
De Aardappelhoeve
Putterijstraat 7A
8700 Tielt (Belgium)
+32 (0)477 29 17 84
[email protected]

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