Just a potato? How to stand out on the supermarket shelf

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Consider the potato section of any local supermarket. Whether in sacks, bags, nets or boxes, the scene is likely to be much the same - an overwhelmingly beige mass of vegetables. Aside from a selection of barely-descriptive names on labels, there is little to tell one potato from the next, and even less to inform a purchase decision. 

Despite an apparent lack of marketing effort, potatoes remain a key part of Europe's staple diet. In fact, recent figures suggest that EU citizens collectively consume over 35 million tons of the tubers each year. A market this vast yet this homogenous seems ripe for innovation. Thankfully, the scale of the opportunity has not gone entirely unnoticed. 

"The market for potatoes is huge, but there's a real disconnect between our product, and our consumers' understanding of that product," explained Jan Warnez, manager of Warnez NV. "Essentially, we want people to be more aware of what we offer - there's a lot more to potatoes than the average consumer realises, and we needed to find effective ways to communicate that. That's why we reached out to Food2Market to organise a workshop".

Led by Barcelona-based Open Innovation consultancy Bax & Willems, the workshop was designed to pool insights and provide input for generating new ideas and approaches to the potato industry's key issues. It brought together industry experts, potato growers, marketers and trend watchers, providing a structured environment for effective collaboration.

"It was great to have a range of people from various organisations and countries in a single session," said Peter van Steenkiste. Product and Operational Manager at Warnez. “Not only did it help us all to see our shared issues from some very different angles, we've also enhanced our personal ties with one another. I think that alone is a very positive thing for the industry." 

Several key takeaways and ideas for further exploration have been identified by a number of the session’s participants. Particularly useful outcomes have been reported in the field of category management, with further explorations now underway into the effective communication of taste through product packaging.

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Peter van Steenkiste, for one, is confident that the workshop has had real value for his organisation: "I'm sure some of the concrete ideas that came out of this session will be underpinning many of our future activities. I also think there's also been a great deal of value in the feedback we've had on existing ideas. We've confirmed the validity of several things we were already working on, but we've also managed to eliminate one or two less promising lines of enquiry. 

"That all enables us to focus on what's really interesting - both for us and for the consumer.

For more information:

Open Innovation consultancy Bax & Willems · Anneke Stolk (a.stolk@baxwillems.eu)

Illustrations: Studio Blonk · Stefan Blonk (info@studioblonk.nl)

Food2Market is financed by INTERREG IVB NWE, a financial instrument in the European Union´s Cohesion Policy, which funds projects that support transnational collaboration.

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