Archive Article: 1997/08/02

2 August 1997




BEFORE they rush from their taxis into the British Potato Councils offices in Cowley, perhaps some of the new council members would care to stroll up to the local shopping centre and its market stalls.

Heaven forbid, they might even dig deep in their pockets for the 90p-£1 required in one of the local chip shops. What will they find? Probably some of the rather second rate spuds which are disillusioning the great bulk of the population.

Cowley, you see, is not the most salubrious or wealthy of Oxfords suburbs. Not far away is the notorious Blackbird Leys housing estate. You dont find many Sainsbury customers round there. So theres a fair chance they still know how to peel their own potatoes.

Yet what is to be found on the market stalls and local grocers in a year when potato prices have plunged as low as can be? Poor quality, badly stored and often tasteless examples – left behind after the multiples have creamed away the best.

In fact, the best potatoes to be found in Cowley, are probably those highly priced fries in the new Burger King on the site of a now demolished car factory.

And, who is being targeted by the BPC in its first campaign (albeit inherited from the old PMB)? Its the middle class readers of the traditional womens press.

But what about their children? There is a generation now which is in danger of perceiving potatoes only as fries. A generation that is even more susceptible to the trendier claims made for pasta and rice. New thinking at BPC is needed to address this most important market sector.

Lets not mince words. Many potato growers are struggling despite responding with new varieties, new technology and techniques. They see the added-value profits which are made on their produce nearer to the consumer and they want greater returns too.

For most of them, however, it can only come from healthy prices for a product in demand. That means a worthwhile price for good quality ware on the shelves because this is what sets the baseline for the processing market.


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