Potato sales struggle – but Aldi sees success

The amount shoppers spend on potatoes is continuing to fall across all UK retailers – with the exception of Aldi.

UK consumers bought slightly fewer fresh potatoes in the 12 weeks to 29 March compared with the year before, but spent 14.4% less according to retail analysts Kantar World Panel.

With a supply-demand imbalance in the potato market, the value of potato sales struggled across all retailers in the year to 29 March, falling 15.9% in both Tesco and Asda and a massive 25.9% at the Co-operative.

See also: Target fixed costs to ensure potatoes are viable

Aldi however bucked the trend, with its shoppers spending 7.2% more on fresh potatoes, helped by an impressive 42.4% increase in sales volumes. Lidl also managed to entice its shoppers to buy more potatoes (up 1.3%) but did not achieve a rise in the amount spent.

In April Aldi overtook Waitrose to become Britain’s 6th biggest supermarket, having recorded double digit growth for the past four years. 

From promotions to everyday low pricing

As the Big Four (Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda, Morrisons) have tried to claw market share back from the discounters, they have cut millions of pounds in shelf prices across numerous products.

In the year to March, 50.3% of fresh potatoes sold by the Big Four were on promotion, compared with 21.7% sold by discounters, according to Kantar World Panel.

However, more recently there has been a move away from promotions towards everyday low pricing, says the Potato Council in its May consumer category report, as the main supermarkets look to compete with the discounters and simplify their offering.

See more on: Why discounters could be the best deal yet more farmers. 

A possible reduction in varieties

Rebecca Hughes, consumer insight analyst at the Potato Council, said the Big Four might look to follow the discounters by reducing the number of potato varieties they sold.

Currently, the average number of potato varieties sold by the Big Four is 20, compared with nine sold by the discounters. Looking at Ireland, where the discounters have a much bigger share of the grocery market, the top three retailers sell just 10 potato varieties.

Ms Hughes said Maris Piper continues to be the most popular variety sold as named, accounting for 11.7% of in-store volumes and 13.8% online in the year ending 29 March.

King Edward, accounted for 5.1% of fresh potatoes sold online and 3.7% in store.

The struggling potato market

Since the 1970s potato sales have struggled as demand has dwindled and potatoes have been replaced by other starches like pasta and rice.