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Historical document

Study tour to the UK and Netherlands to investigate value adding opportunities for potatoes, September 2003 (PT03057)

Key research provider: PIRSA
Publication date: September, 2003

This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.

What was it all about?

The Value Adding Potato Tour to the UK and The Netherlands took place in September 2003. The tour provided participants with a wealth of ideas to be adapted for the Australian Potato Industry.

The tour was developed in direct response to the National Potato Business & Marketing Conference 2002, which identified the need to transfonn potatoes from just a commodity. It was vital for potatoes to compete with so-called 'easy to prepare' foods such as rice and pasta.

Potatoes were an important part of the Australian multicultural diet. They could be bought loose or bagged, washed or brushed, frozen or as crisps and they could be eaten mashed, boiled, baked, fried or as part of any number of exciting multicultural dishes.

The challenge facing the industry had shifted from field and production systems to creating new market opportunities. The industry needed to recognise consumers were busy and have less time for food preparation and take advantage of Australia's multicultural make-up.

We needed to promote the potato as versatile, exciting and, above all else, CONVENIENT. The United Kingdom (UK) and European markets were already working towards meeting these goals.

Supply companies in the UK were packaging potatoes so as to provide consumers with vital information about the variety and cooking methods and to cut preparation time while providing new and exciting meals. Ready­-to-eat or par-processed products with quick, simple instructions were gaining popularity and capturing a greater share of consumer spending.

The study tour was designed to give people involved in the various stages of the Australian Potato industry the opportunity to experience, first hand, how the potato industries in the UK and The Netherlands operate. The tour was designed to have a focus on value adding opportunities that could be adapted for the Australian industry but also provided valuable seed breeding information.

The tour visited a variety of research, breeding, packing and processing sites as well as a number of fanns, where they observed: breeding programs, farming practices, packing facilities and processing lines in action. The tour also attended British Potato, the British Potato Council (BPC) organised event that takes a comprehensive seed-to-shopping trolley approach to looking at Britain's £3.6 billion potato supply industry. British Potato was valuable for growers, suppliers, merchants, packers, processors and retailers.

The UK Industry had experimented with various packaging designs and methods and the Australian Industry needed to acknowledge their successes and failures. Instead of walking the same path to discover what succeeded and what failed the industry needed to look at the UK successes and research them further according to the Australian market. It was important to assess whether the Australian retailers and consumers were willing to pay a premium price for innovative packaging.

The stand out packaging feature was pillow packaging, a very attractive and modern method of presenting potatoes. The pillow packs were very neat and were printed with valuable infomation regarding the variety of potato, best use, cooking method and origin.

Another opportunity the Australian Industry needed to consider seriously was fresh potatoes packed for microwave cooking. Fresh washed new potatoes were packed in a microwave safe punnet ready to be heated and served. These punnets could also have butter, herbs and spices added to them.

A number of companies in the UK have also developed a use for fresh potatoes 30mm and under, they were pillow packing them and marketing them as salad potatoes. This was a process that could be easily adopted for the Australian market. Salads were synonymous with the Australian summer and BBQs, small potatoes packaged this way allowed consumers access to a potato that was quick and easy to prepare and could have a number of uses. At the time, potatoes of this size attract very little remuneration, thus providing growers with an opportunity to earn money for previously unwanted product.

Supemarkets in the UK were becoming more powerful. Some dictated the pesticides growers could use, as they want to promote themselves as having growers who use less pesticides and were environmentally friendly. Others, because of the fight for market share, demand specifically grown crops that would set them apart from the crowd. This caused problems when they did not purchase the entire crop and growers were left to sell it elsewhere.

At the time, the UK industry was working with the supemarkets to educate them on the necessity of some pesticides and on the problems specialised crops could cause. They were also working with the growers to manage issues before they traveled down the line to processors and retailers.

The Value Adding Potato Trip to the UK and The Netherlands provided a valuable insight in to the workings of these two industries. It allowed participants to see the progress being made in seed breeding, processing and marketing. It provided participants with the opportunity to take the information gained and adapt it to their businesses and the Australian Potato Industry.


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Funding statement:
This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the financial support of Arris Pty Ltd.

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2004. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).