27 March 1999

TASTY SURPRISE

DEVELOPING a taste for potatoes, cooked the British way? Victor Phaff, export consultant for the British Potato Council (pictured standing), tempts the palates of German supermarket buyers Jürgen Krumrey (glasses) and Jurgen Loewens (moustache), during an inward trade mission organised by the BPC, and sponsored by the dti. On the menu are Nadine, Marfona, Estima and Desiree – all yellow or creamy fleshed types, which appeal to Continental palates.

The greatest culture shock came with the baked jacket potatoes. German consumers have not latched on to the microwaved spud as a quick meal – yet. What particularly caught the eye of these German visitors was the high price tag on the bakers, packed in a convenient supermarket twin tray.

"The British market for bakers is streets ahead," comments Mr Phaff. "The Germans still have reservations about jacket potatoes." Over there, most potatoes are eaten either mashed, chipped or plain boiled, and yellow fleshed types predominate.

Roasted spuds, cooked in the oven with the Sunday joint, are also unfamiliar. Final surprise of the trip came with a visit to M&S, when the Germans saw new potatoes, pre-packed with herbs and butter in a ready-to-microwave container on the shelves of M&S.

Trade missions are primarily about opening channels of communication between buyers and sellers, but the BPC hopes that by spreading the news on British spud marketing techniques at the same time, it can also help UK potato export prospects.

PBI wins variety

exports award

AS recognition of achievement on variety exports, plant breeding company PBI Cambridge is awarded the Food from Britain Potato Export Award, sponsored by the BPC. In four years, potato exports and variety licensing agreements have grown from virtually nothing to 10% of its potato business turnover.

Now 14 PBI Cambridge varieties are being sold in 31 countries, with four more under trial.

"Maris Bard and Carlingford are often used as early or out of season new potatoes, grown for example in Majorca," says Andy Pumfrey of PBI Cambridge.

"Early, white fleshed varieties such as Rocket and Maris Bard are attractive to the Scandinavian market. Canada is expressing interest in six of our mainstream varieties including Sierra and Rocket, which seem to suit its climate. This is very promising; the market for seed potatoes over there is huge."

Shortly after receiving this award, it was announced that the potato business is to be sold by Monsanto, which bought PBI Cambridge last year.