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Potato product innovations

Publication Date: 
22 October 2018

Kim Malley, Senior Analyst, Kim.Malley@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8852

As potato retail volumes grow, smaller categories such as crisps and chilled are increasing at the fastest rate.

This is reflected in the innovations we see in the category, with significant degrees of diversification in terms of new flavours and formats. Conventional oven chips are no longer the overwhelming force in terms of new product development within the category. The focus is undoubtedly on greater convenience as well as new formats providing greater variety and sophistication through gourmet and premium offerings.

In the future, new product development needs to stand out as ranges are rationalised. According to a study by SCALA, the UK’s biggest grocers are reducing their product ranges to compete with discounters. Currently, discounters stock 7,500 units compared to 30,000 for a traditional supermarket. This simpler and more streamlined approach is coupled with market share growth for discounters.

Range rationalisation has a big impact on new product development, making it harder for new products to gain shelf distribution, with shorter a period to prove themselves. Despite this, new product development is key for retailer success as innovation is news for a consumer and typically higher priced.

Therefore, it is essential new product development stands out and meets consumer needs. 

Recent potato new product development has focused on:

Convenience

The time taken to prepare and cook a main meal has halved since 1980, to just thirty minutes. Convenience is not just about reducing time but also about ease of cooking, meaning new product development must advance in these two areas without compromising quality.

Carb alternatives

Carb alternatives are a hot trend, with offerings such as cauliflower rice, mushotto and courgette spaghetti recently becoming common terms. While current offerings are mainly 100% vegetable-based with the intention to remove carbohydrates completely, there is an opportunity for halfway alternatives, meaning the comfort and tastiness of carbs with the ‘healthiness’ of vegetables.

Healthy snacking

According to Mintel, the snacking culture in the UK is pervasive, with 96% of people reported to eat between meals. This is a daily habit for 69% of those people (Consumer Snacking, UK, May 2018). Snacking needs to provide energy, fit in with time-poor lifestyles and increasingly be healthy, following the PHE’s (Public Health England) scrutiny of snacks.

Premium snacking

Hand-cooked and batch fried cooked crisps are perceived as premium. Branded premium products continue to expand their ranges through flavours, while still promoting the cooking process. Own-label is expanding premium tier offerings, being “the biggest contributor to crisps volume gains 52 w/e 28 January 2018”, according to The Grocer.

Shareable offerings

The potato market currently offers a lot of ‘shareable’ products in terms of crisps, chips and wedges so the opportunity lies in improving or offering new eating experiences. For example, Fairfields Farm has launched a range of microwaveable ‘crisps with dip’ to tap into the sharing snacking sector. This is a UK first for a unique hot crisp product, allowing consumers to taste the crisps as if they were fresh out of the fryer, giving them a whole new eating experience.

Exciting flavours and formats

Newness in existing ranges excites consumers and the potato market over the last few years has played heavily on flavours and formats. While manufacturers are still doing this, coupling with a gourmet or premium message can widen eating occasions beyond every night meals.

Continental cuisines

According to IGD, 43% of shoppers claim there is not enough choice and variety in supermarkets for world foods (IGD Shopper Vista, Range rationalisation, June 2017). While ranges are increasing, particularly in sauces, meal kits and ingredients, convenient frozen ranges remain small, posing an opportunity to encourage world dishes with country-specific potato offerings. 

Packaging innovations

The need for attractive but environmentally friendly packaging is growing, as 63% of shoppers agree they would prefer to buy products wrapped in paper, steel, glass or aluminium rather than plastic, as they are perceived as better for the environment (IGD ShopperVista, UK action on plastic, May 18). Currently, crisps lack environmentally friendly credentials, with almost all crisps sold in the UK being in non-recyclable plastic packaging that doesn’t rot. A recent petition has called for action, particularly by Walkers, to change. Walkers has answered by committing to making all of its packaging 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025.

Potato-based alcohol

While the size of the potato-based alcohol market is unknown, growth is implied by the increased number of spirit-based distillery registrations in the UK. According to WSTA, gin distilleries have gone from 40 in 2010 to around 75 in 2016 and vodka distilleries have gone from 20 to 32 in the same time frame. Chase Distillery, the UK’s first single-estate distillery, was founded on a farm in Herefordshire in 2008 by the founder of Tyrells crisps. The vodka is a premium potato-based product made from varieties including Lady Claire and King Edward.

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