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Nutrition and the Media

7 June 2018

The truth about potatoes:

In 2018 AHDB produced a document outlining the truth on the nutritional benefits of the potato. The aim was to 'cut through the noise' and 'bust the myths' on potatoes and health that appear in the mainstream media. Everything in the document is scientifcally proven, by sources such as nutrition bible McCance and Widdowson's the Composition of Foods​, and Public Health England

The key facts are:

  • Potatoes are naturally fat free
  • Potatoes are naturally low in saturated fat
  • Potatoes are naturally low in sugars
  • Potatoes are naturally salt free
  • Potatoes contribute 14% to vitamin C, 13% to vitamin B6 and 9% to folate intakes in the diets of adults in the UK
  • In the UK, potatoes contribute 14% of total fibre intake in adolescents, and 12% of total fibre intake in adults

Download: Potatoes in the diet - the essential guide here

Twitter and Facebook graphics​: Please email jimmy.phillips@ahdb.org.uk to be sent copies of the social media graphics

Science in the media

Despite the simple truth about potatoes outlined above, consumers often feel confused about nutrition based on conflicting messages in the mainstream media. Much of this stems from the practice of taking isolated facts, out of context, to produce an attention grabbing headline.

In June 2018, AHDB Potatoes made a statement on behalf of the industry, after a  misleading article in the Daily Mail. Read the full statement here.

Confusion, when it comes to potatoes, often arises over the treatment of carbohydrates. An extract from the June 2018 statement addresses this:

Dr Carrie Ruxton said: ... “[confusting articles] twist the truth and mislead people trying hard to give up sugary foods and follow Government advice to 'base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates'. All carbohydrates are turned into glucose (sugar) by our bodies - this is because our brains, muscles and organs use glucose as a fuel. Basically, it's natural energy!”

The role of AHDB

Press and Media

AHDB Potatoes acts as the press office for the British potato industry, answering media enquiries, working with production companies and journalists to secure positive coverage and providing protection from negative stories.

AHDB Potatoes works closely with the PPA, FPSA, BPTA, NFU, NFUS and others when issues arise, making sure we all share a common position and minimise any negative impact.

AHDB Potatoes deals with researchers from many TV production companies pitching ideas for stories and supporting their development. One example of this is BBC’s ‘Britain’s Favourite Supermarket Foods’. A year before the programme aired, we started working with them, providing information from our ‘Wonderfuel’ campaign.  The result was a whole segment dedicated to potatoes, describing them as a ‘superfood’ for health. The programme provided AHDB Potatoes with a wonderful opportunity to educate consumers about the nutritional benefi ts of potatoes, reaching a wide audience and providing potatoes with a significant awareness boost.  The coverage reached 3.7 million people with a PR value of £1.3 million. 

Contact from Trading Standards in Scotland raised the alarm for a potentially damaging and sensationalist story regarding new potatoes, which resulted in crisis management strategies being put into place at AHDB Potatoes.  The response included development of a standard industry definition working with retailers, growers and suppliers to provide a practical solution. This also helped reduce shopper confusion and highlighted when new potatoes can be enjoyed at their seasonal best. The new definition allows for a minor name change, such as simply moving to retailing packs of ‘baby’ potatoes, when new are not in season. Management of the media resulted in changing a very damaging story into mainly positive, with some neutral, coverage.

Marketing and advocacy

There are two main strands to the marketing work delivered by our market development team. The More than a bit on the side ​campaign, provides quick-and-easy meal inspiration to fit in with our ever-busier lifestyles, while reminding consumers of the healthy and nutritious virtues of potatoes.

The campain's lead character 'Bud the Spud's' following has grown to more than 220,000 on Facebook, and 30,000 on both Instagram and Twitter. While successful advertising campaigns have featured in magazines and on the London Underground network.

But what has this meant for the market place? While retail performance cannot be directly attributed to marketing activity, at the end of the second year of the campaign Kantar WorldPanel figures showed that fresh potato volumes sold are higher than the level predicted, in this way the campaign is viewed as exceeding its target for the first two full years of activity.

In 2018, AHDB began to step up it work on advocacy. Advocacy is an ongoing piece of work for AHDB Potatoes Market Development, delivering throughout this year to consumers via a commitment to Bud the Spud post EU funding, including important consumer influencers. Driving advocacy to influential policy makers is now at delivery stage with a dedicated internal team linking directly with industry to ensure the best advocates are utilised for each point of influence. This is a key focus area for delivery in 2018-2019 and will be leading decision making for future years. Ensuring both consumers and those behind the food chain understand the importance of potatoes to the British diet.