Belgium: “Potatoes experienced leap in quality”

According to Peter van Steenkiste of Belgian potato company Warnez, potatoes have made not just a small step, but a giant leap in quality during the last couple of years. This leap, he claims, is not merely due to better varieties and better processing, but to packers’ unwillingness to accept bad loads.

“In the old days,” says Steenkiste, “under the adage ‘It’s a natural product’, people accepted the fact that there were three or four bad apples in a batch. But those times are gone. Even discounters won’t, as a general rule, accept any faults in a shipment of potatoes. Industry people care about putting out the best possible produce.”

Belgium isn’t that into local varieties yet, says Steenkiste. “The industry is trying to promote them, but they haven’t taken off.” It is difficult for growers and distributors to anticipate trends. A few years back Belgians were into luxury items, more so than in Holland, but now the tendency is reversing. Belgian buyers, weary of the intricate diversity of potato products, seem to go back to common foil bags. “If there is anything that I’ve learned,” explains Steenkiste, “is that every trend is followed by an anti-trend. A company like ours thrives on making these kinds of predictions. Warnez is still a prominent player on the market.”

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