Fighting against misleading messages on healthy eating and misinterpreted reports on medical risks has been an uphill battle for potato growers in recent times – but a producer conference yesterday focused on the benefits of careful promotion for the industry.
John Hicks of potato brand Albert Bartlett said that there was no getting away from the fact that, as a commodity, potatoes were falling behind other fresh produce, with recent food scare stories such as the last week’s headlines which linked an increased risk of diabetes associated with pregnant mothers eating potatoes doing little to help.
However, he told yesterday’s Scottish Agricultural College’s Association of Potato Producers (SACAPP) conference that the creation of a strong brand had helped boost the performance of Bartletts, leaving it in a better position than the undifferentiated equivalent.
Hicks said that while it was important to get the product right, creating a niche within the “unlabelled mature market” of potato sales had required considerable effort when the company had embarked on the road towards creating a branded product in 2003.
He revealed that it had not been cheap to get to the company’s current position – with national TV and media advertising campaigns and both celebrity chef and sports men and woman acting as brand ambassadors. He said that with promotional links and competitions tied in with Hollywood blockbusters such as Toy Story, there had been £40 million invested in brand development over the years.
Working with a much more meagre budget, Nick White, head of marketing with Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board potatoes, said it was important that the promotional activities of the producer-funded organisation were carefully focused.
With the normal promotional budget standing at under £1m, he said that it was crucial that the organisation got the best for its money when covering everything from in-store material to getting the message into schools.
“The new One Voice campaign is aimed at bringing the industry together, helping us to make a greater impact by ensuring consistent messages when speaking about the benefits of potatoes,” he said.
Meanwhile industry stalwart, Stuart Wale, issued a warning over the fall in the area of seed potatoes grown in Scotland. He said that while the country’s produce was still renowned around the world for the high quality of its seed, the area of the crop had shrunk from over 14,000 hectares in 1995 to 10,500 hectares in 2015.