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Food service expert: ‘Four ways to increase the value of potatoes in the food sector’

Interested in getting more money out of your potatoes in the food sector? It’s possible! Jan-Willem Grievink, CEO of FoodService Institute Netherlands shares four insights. Insights based on international research that this independent knowledge platform conducts into trends and developments in the retail sector.

The potato sector faces big challenges, Grievink says. Over the last years the potato has become a topic of discussion related to health: it is viewed as a ‘starch bomb’ and a ’carb bomb’. Also, the advent of the fast food age did not do potatoes any favours and has for the most part given the potato a negative connotation when it comes to healthy food.

Jan-Willem Grievink

Grievink’s advice: “The sector must get the right balance in the intrinsic qualities of the product, the demands of the consumer and the image and experience. Make the connection with fruit and vegetables instead of a greasy snack.

It is time to come up with new things that shake off the negative image. Image determines growth. If the sector succeeds in making the potato attractive again, the rest will come automatically. The potato deserves it; it is too good a product.”

1. Make it easy

Convenience is an important trend that the potato sector can respond to. The Western European consumer has regained confidence in the economy and spends more money on food. Driven by the need for convenience, time saving and experience, he often eats out.

According to Grievink, direct consumption will continue to be the largest growth market in 2018. Formulas for convenience food service are on the rise, such as AH-to-go and McDonalds that succeeded in turning a negative image into a more accepted one. Potatoes are standard in their assortment, but can you add new products to these formulas and take a share of the profit?

The consumer has money to spend on time saving, whether he eats at home or eats out.

2. Tell a story

‘Food is becoming fashion’, Grievink states. In this important trend it is all about lifestyle and experiences: storytelling, being premium, the ethical side of food. This trend holds huge opportunities for potatoes!

Grievink: ‘There is room at the top of the market if your product is accompanied by evidence. If you want consumers to spend more, you also need to do more. You have to offer something special, get away from the mainstream. So look for nicer, smarter and alternative products; for products with an extraordinary story, such as local or organic products.

A successful example is traditional French fries, where the consumer sees the preparation and is willing to pay more for that.’

3. Become a key player

The sector must become more involved with the end user. You have to know things about the customer. In the old transaction economy, everyone interfered with his or her own link in the chain. This will change as a result of digitalisation. Digitalisation makes it easy for consumers to inform themselves.

Source and end-user are becoming more and more connected. The links in between will lose power. ‘Make sure you are there where the developments are and get involved with new technology, otherwise you will soon be handed over to the links in the chain that do that for you’, warns Grievink.

4. Think in added value

The challenge is not to think in terms of volume, but in added value. Grievink: ‘Volume thinking has made us great, but it has not added much value. Volume thinking is a real pitfall for innovation.

‘First make consumers embrace your product, then volume will come naturally.’ Take Starbucks. Previously you could buy a coffee and a muffin for a dollar at any street corner in America. Then Starbucks came and asked 7 times as much: $3.50! But the coffees were bigger, freshly ground, etc. That is daring and innovative thinking! Starbucks’ success speaks for itself.

This article was first published in InZpire, an online magazine maintained by potato breeding company HZPC bv, and is re-published with permission and thanks…