Supermarkets oblige demand
SUPERMARKETS know the needs of consumers, so follow their demands and grow what the markets want.
That is the philosophy of Angus Wilson who established Wilsons Country as a potato supplier selling 4t a week in 1987. He now markets 8000t a year, worth £1.6m to supermarkets in Northern Ireland and mainland UK.
"Last year was the year the supermarkets came to town. By December 1997 over half of all groceries in Northern Ireland were sold by different supermarket groups from 1996. To begin with there was a lot of uncertainty, but the future is clearer now," he said.
"There has been some grumbling about supermarket standards. But we have to forget about the past. Our customers, the supermarkets, know what consumers want and we have to supply that.
"Growers are at a crossroads. The Northern Ireland food and drink market is worth £2bn a year, with consumers here spending 22% more on the sector than in the rest of the UK. Growers can either invest and go for it or get out.
But production must follow accepted UK techniques and be linked to an outlet. "And avoid speculative planting, it will only result in liquidated businesses," he warned.
His goal for 1998 is sales of 18,000t and a £4m turnover. Projects for the future include peeled, ready to use potatoes for supermarket sales. "We already have a joint venture with Moy Park for ready to use vegetables and potatoes make sense too."