The consumer is the final and the most critical link in the potato industry value chain and is responsible for demand; the volume of potatoes purchased.

Competition from foods such as pasta and rice has made recent in-roads into the fresh potato market. Per capita consumption in Australia and Europe is in decline with the average consumer only eating 1.6 serves of potatoes each week, with younger age groups eating less.  The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that between 1995 and 2005 annual per capita consumption of potatoes decreased from 55 kilograms to 53 kilograms.

It is clear that the popularity of potatoes as an essential part of the "meat and three veg" diet is waning. The average consumer perceives potatoes as unhealthy and inconvenient.  If this trend continues, the industry will also be in decline.

According to a recent report of a survey commissioned by Woolworths, the potato was Australia’s side dish of choice in 1984 accounting for 72% of our side dish purchases. This has dropped to 39%, with the popularity of pasta, noodles and rice increasing to now make up 61% of side dish purchases.

Research done in 2012 by Western Potatoes Ltd has found that 85% of consumers in Western Australia eat potatoes more than once a month, with 63% consuming potatoes more than once a week.  Consumers also purchase potatoes 3.3 times per month (or every 10 days) and they prefer bagged potatoes (2-3 kilograms) to loose. Potatoes are seen as a staple food and are predominantly purchased from supermarkets.  Most consumers are also unaware of potato varieties and purchase on skin colour or whether they are washed or brushed.  The physical appearance of the potato is critical in the consumer's decision to purchase; it generally must be smooth, evenly shaped, firm, non-sprouting, without blemishes and without deep eyes.  Potatoes are also seen as a cost-effective accompaniment to the evening meal.

Older age groups consume potatoes with far more regularity than younger age groups which in an ageing population, means that demand per capita will be substantially less in the future.

There is an urgent need for an awareness campaign targeting the younger demographic (particularly mothers with children) based upon the potato's convenience (accessibility and attainability) and its health and nutritional benefits. There is also a great opportunity to educate consumers on the many different varieties and their uses in specific recipes.

Go to the following links for more information on the benefits of eating potatoes:

www.apre.org

freshpotatoes.com.au

potatogoodness.com

idahopotato.com

potatoes.com

coloradopotato.org