Young people are being targeted in a €1 million bid to safeguard the future of the humble potato after a campaign focusing on women appears to have arrested a historic plunge in the staple’s popularity in Ireland.
Despite their international and historic reputation as the country’s favourite vegetable, sales of potatoes have plummeted over recent decades as shoppers increasingly turned to the likes of pasta and rice for their carbohydrates. Low-carbohydrate diets have also fuelled the free fall.
An “historic low point” in sales in 2012 forced many potato farmers out of their long-held livelihoods and pushed the industry into taking action, said Lorcan Bourke, a business analyst with Bord Bia.
At the start of the new millennium, 474,000 tonnes of the root crop were produced a year – the equivalent of six 2.5kg bags every second. By 2012, that had almost halved to 244,267 tonnes.
“We went to the potato farmers and said: ‘Look lads, we need to do something about this’,” said Mr Bourke.
With the help of the European Union and the British Potato Board, Bord Bia began a three-year effort to “basically change the image of potatoes”.
This time, Ireland is teaming up with Belgium and France to co-fund the research, with an application in with the EU to contribute towards the €1 million project. A tender has gone out for researchers.
Initial findings, expected by late spring, will inform a new marketing campaign.