During the 1980s one of the UK’s number one music albums was No Jacket Required by Phil Collins. Unfortunately, people who were born during this ‘deely-bopper decade’ seem to have taken this record too literally as their consumption of “jackets” – and, in fact, potatoes in all their forms – is somewhat underwhelming. For this reason, AHDB Potatoes and Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) have this month (October, 2015) jointly launched a new marketing drive to target younger consumers – particularly females aged 25 to 34 – who have yet to open their hearts to this tuberous crop. Produce Business UK finds out about the integrated campaign that is calling on growers, packers, retailers and distributors to help spread the message
Turning potatoes into a smash hit
Thanks to co-funding from the European Union, the three-year campaign has a budget of €1.8 million (£1.3m). Titled ‘Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side’, the initiative will promote potatoes as a relevant and convenient food that is healthy, tasty and versatile.
Nick White, head of marketing and corporate affairs for AHDB Potatoes, explains: “The objective of the ‘Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side’ campaign is to change the perceptions of younger consumers (predominantly females aged 25 to 34 years) about the health benefits of potatoes – and also to quash the myth that they aren’t quick and convenient to cook.
“Doing so will firmly position potatoes as ideal mid-week meals, re-engaging people with the category with the ultimate goal of boosting sales through a greater frequency of usage.”
AHDB Potatoes and Bord Bia are aiming to move potatoes up the charts by running “a highly visible programme” of adverts in lifestyle magazines such as Now, Closer and Heat – as well as on news websites such as MailOnline. The ‘Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side’ message is being further supported by social media and the Potato Council’s website, lovepotatoes.co.uk.
White adds that the campaign is also building partnerships with influential people and other advocates who are active in health, cookery and fitness. “This integrated campaign will ensure we reach consumers at every opportunity; instilling positive shopping and eating habits that will benefit the industry both now and in the long term,” he says.
Need you tonight
Potatoes actually have a list of health benefits longer than the tape reel of an “old school” cassette. They are, for instance, naturally free of fat, gluten and salt and a source of fibre.
Yet as the Potato Council points out in its consumer category report for August 2015, potato consumption over the 10-year period between 2002 and 2012 saw all consumer age groups reduce their number of meals that contained potatoes. The decline was most significant in the younger age group (those aged under 35), where it dropped by more than 5% across the 10-year period. According to the latest Kantar figures, the report also states that just 10% of the fresh potatoes sold are consumed by 25 to 34 year olds.
White believes there are two main reasons for this. “It’s a generational thing – anyone below 35 tends to associate carbohydrates with being fattening,” he points out. “That’s their first association with potatoes. So that’s why we are very much pushing potatoes’ health credentials.
“Secondly, they tend to think that potatoes are not something they can cook with in the middle of the week. At the weekend they will happily spend 45 minutes to an hour preparing their food but on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays they are doing other stuff, like going to the gym. People want something that can be ready in 20 minutes. Our job is to ensure that potatoes are firmly part of that 20-25 minute group.”
Boomboxing out the message
Considering potatoes have been part of the human diet for more than 400 years, White also believes there is almost an “over-familiarity” with the vegetable, which can lead to indifference.
“The key is to surprise consumers with facts they are not necessarily aware of that make them think again about including potatoes in their diet,” he notes. “Consumers are regularly exposed to hundreds of messages, so driving awareness over a sustained period of time is important to ensure they take hold, hence the need for a longer-term, three-year campaign.” Adding a bit of noise to the potato category in the form of a long-term campaign has already been proven to be effective. “The ‘Many Faces of Potatoes’ drive [which ran a few years ago] achieved a 4% move across all key measured attitudes – modernity, health and convenience,” White says.
I love it when a plan comes together
As fans of the cult 1980s television series The A-Team will know, you are far more likely to succeed in your ambitious mission if you work together. For this reason, AHDB Potatoes and Bord Bia are calling on the help of their fellow “soldiers of fortune” – namely growers, packers, retailers and distributors – to help them put the message across.
“The more cohesive the industry can be, the better the chance it has of being noticed by consumers (shoppers and diners) and the greater the impact,” he explains, adding that the industry can access promotional material – including banners, stickers, posters and the like – through the website potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/onevoice.
White also urges packers and retailers to add some dynamite to the category by dazzling consumers with inspirational cooking ideas and nutritional information. In fact, he goes as far as to say that when it comes to the potato section of the fresh produce aisles, it’s not an exciting area in which to shop.
“What we know is consumers engage with fantastic recipes,” he says. “They do not want to see a bag of spuds, they want to see [an image of] some fantastic roasted potatoes – they want to see how it would look on a plate.
“With four in 10 shoppers making the decision to purchase potatoes at the fixture, it is important that we offer them the guidance and inspiration they are looking for. We are therefore urging packers and retailers to include more varietal and nutritional information on-pack, as well as recipe imagery and even quick-cook recipe ideas in-store to coincide with our campaign.
“Together, we can really make a difference and help consumers reconnect with the category, building their enthusiasm and propensity to make a purchase,” White concludes.