Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Consumers are passing on spuds

The Ontario Potato Board wants to know why shoppers are buying fewer potatoes, so has hired Dr. Martin Gooch of the Value Chain Management Centre and George Mitges and Associates of Vineland to interview 1,000 shoppers.

They have already interviewed 210 and find that most know there are many different potato varieties, but 64 per cent couldn’t identify the ones that are best for baking, boiling or mashing.

The potato board wants the consultants to help them identify the attributes or products that shoppers are willing to pay premium prices to purchase.

Their challenge is that fresh potato consumption has declined by 40 per cent per capita over the last 20 years.

The Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Council is helping to fund the project which involves Loblaws Companies Limited and Downey Farms.

I can tell them what annoys my wife about fresh potatoes grown in Ontario. The quality is poor.

She paid a premium for Green Giant brand fresh potatoes when they were imported from the United States because the quality was excellent. There were no cuts, no bruises, no brown-rot areas when she cut them open.

Then Green Giant began sourcing potatoes in Ontario, and the quality plunged.

There are, no doubt, many other discoveries the consultants will make during their research, but unless  and until the Ontario Potato Board is willing and able to vastly improve the quality of fresh potatoes its members market, the gains will be small and ephemeral.