1 October 1999

Skin finish and taste crucial

POTATOES can compete with rice and pasta, but consistently high quality on the shelf and on the customers plate is essential, says Sainsbury.

"Skin finish and taste remain of paramount importance," says Sainsburys potato product manager Damon Johnson. "If it does not look the part customers are unlikely to pick it up and if it does not eat well when cooked, customers will not return to buy more." he adds.

To make sure produce performs on the plate, taste tests are carried out on a daily basis evaluating every variety stocked, and on potential new varieties throughout their maturing process.

But that will not tempt a customer to put a new potato variety into the basket for the first time. Convenience, appearance, price, and meeting concerns over food safety and the environment will, he says.

Punnets and organic produce are seen as one of the key ways to do that.

"Our customers expect high quality, affordable potatoes produced reliably and in an ethical manner. Punneted crop continues to be increasingly appealing to our customers – the success of Charlotte and Nicola is filtering through to other lines and the shelf space dedicated to punnets is testimony to this fact."

Total organic sales in the companys stores have doubled since the start of the year, reaching £2.5m/week. Fresh produce, including potatoes, is a leading sector within that market and Sainsbury is committed to driving down the level of imports from the current 70%.

"But the inherent challenge of producing enough crop of the correct quality to satisfy the customers requirements remains," he says. &#42

SAINSBURYSAYS

&#8226 Skin finish and taste quality crucial.

&#8226 Customer focus from seed to shelf.

&#8226 Punnet and organic growth targeted.

&#8226 Daily taste tests.