Sunday, 22 October 2017

PROCESS EXPO Announces Innovations Showcase Finalists

PROCESS EXPO Announces Innovations Showcase Finali...

  The organizers of this year's Process Expo have announced the finalists of the Innovations Show...

Exclusive Interview: What’s in Store for Potato Processors at PACK Expo 2017

Exclusive Interview: What’s in Store for Potato Pr...

  Bringing together 2,000+ exhibitors and 30,000 attendees from virtually every vertical market, ...

FPSA Young Professionals Group Invites Attendees to Career Roundtables

FPSA Young Professionals Group Invites Attendees t...

  The FPSA's Young Professionals Group (YPG) will host informal roundtable sessions for students ...

International Potato Center Opens Regional Office in Georgia

International Potato Center Opens Regional Office in Ge...

  The International Potato Center (CIP) has opened its regional office covering Central Asia and the C...

US Retail Records Growth for Potatoes in August

US Retail Records Growth for Potatoes in August

  USA total potato retail performance recorded growth in August 2017, according to Total Store Monthly...

Kiremko Focuses on Sustainability

Kiremko Focuses on Sustainability

  Potato equipment processor Kiremko has introduced a new concept challenging itself to improve potato...

AVR Launches New Potato Harvester at Agritechnica

AVR Launches New Potato Harvester at Agritechnica

  Equipment producer AVR launches the latest 2-row potato harvester AVR Spirit 5200, at Agritechnica, ...

 Tomra Launches Enhanced Sorting Machine

Tomra Launches Enhanced Sorting Machine

  Tomra Sorting Food has launched an enhanced sorting solution which removes more than 98% of all typi...

Sormac Launches New MS-30 Knife Peeler

Sormac Launches New MS-30 Knife Peeler

  Equipment producer Sormac presents the MS-30 knife peeler for production lines with a higher process...

Left Field Foods Introduces Air-Puffed Potato Snacks

Left Field Foods Int...

  Canadian company Left Field Foods has launched Spokes a...

Branston Invests GBP6m in Lincoln Factory

Branston Invests GBP...

  Branston has announced the completion of a GBP6 million...

Lamb Weston Expands Operations in Richland

Lamb Weston Expands ...

  Lamb Weston Holdings celebrated the completed expansion...

Tasteful Selections to Introduce SteamPak Mini

Tasteful Selections ...

  Tasteful Selections, a specialty potato brand from RPE ...

Fresh Solutions Network to Introduce Flavorables Potato Line

Fresh Solutions Netw...

  Fresh Solutions Network will be serving up fresh-cut po...

Tesco Launches Candy Cane Flavored Crisps

Tesco Launches Candy...

  The UK supermarket giant Tesco has recently launches ne...

Fabcon Installs Potato Processing System in Kuwait Factory

Fabcon Installs Pota...

    UK-based Fabcon Food Systems has provided the machin...

Burts Chips Invests GBP3m in New Frying Line in Plymouth

Burts Chips Invests ...

  British potato chip maker Burts Chips installs a second h...

KFC Mashie Relaunched after Online Pressure

KFC Mashie Relaunche...

The KFC Mashie is returning to Australian shores after alm...

DARS Starts Cleaning Potatoes of Viruses to Improve Production

DARS Starts Cleaning...

    The Department of Agriculture Research Services in Mal...

Czech Potato Research Institute Cultivates Blue Potato Variety

Czech Potato Researc...

  The Potato Research Institute, based in the town of Hav...

British Potato Producer Builds Potato Store in Marsham

British Potato Produ...

  A potato producer has applied for permission to build a...

National Potato Council Awards Adrienne Gorny for Potato Research

National Potato Coun...

  The National Potato Council (NPC) announces that Adrien...

Solynta Develops Late Blight Resistant Potato Varieties

Solynta Develops Lat...

  Dutch potato breeding company Solynta has developed pot...

Hydroponic Potatoes Might Be Grown inside Europe’s Deepest Metal Mine

Hydroponic Potatoes ...

  A research team recently launched a pilot project to in...

Cornell University Publishes Organic Production and IPM Guide for Potatoes

Cornell University P...

  The practical potato production Guide was compiled by a...

Canada Approves Three New Types of GMO Potatoes

Canada Approves Thre...

  Three types of potatoes genetically engineered by an Id...

Cavendish Farms to Build Two New Modern Storage Facilities

Cavendish Farms to B...

  Prince Edwards Island's major potato processor Cavendis...

In just one year, Albert Bartlett, one of Britain’s leading grower and packer of potatoes has seen production almost double, re-launched and expanded its robust Rooster brand, opened a purpose-built factory in Jersey and is now turning its attention towards Europe. Evie Serventi and Katy Whitelaw report.

An awe-inspiring tour through the pristine, state-of-the-art 37,000ft pack house watching staff work diligently on up to 26 production lines that wash, grade, sort, pack and distribute 100,000 tonnes of potatoes annually, exemplifies the dedication Albert Bartlett and its potato growers have in raising the profile of the humble spud.
Headquarters of the third generation family-owned business, which enjoyed its 60th anniversary last year, cover 56 acres in Airdrie, Scotland. Up to 900 employees work throughout spacious offices, a main production pack house and storage area. There are four training rooms, a canteen, car parking and a wastewater treatment system.
A £50 million investment over a three year period has led to the company today supplying one in six of the UK’s fresh potatoes.
“We have 85 growers in the UK and we work on informal handshake agreements – it has been like that for three generations. Our growth has sustained their growth,” explains John Hicks, the company’s head of marketing, adding that the three-times running Re:fresh Packer of the Year winner’s strength lies in its relationship with its growers.
“The more you put in, the more you get out it,” agrees local farmer Douglas Brunton, who has been growing six varieties of potatoes exclusively for Albert Bartlett for over 22 years on 3,500 acres of farmland in eastern Scotland. Many of the company’s contracted farmers have been supplying potatoes to the company for three generations. Growers are a core part of the business.
“We have a good relationship; and feel comfortable with the company. Albert Bartlett never lets its customers down: even in the early days, the bosses were always hands on and always making decisions,” he reflects. He reminisces to his early days as a young lad, handpicking potatoes; a part of everyday life.

Brunton is currently in the middle of harvesting this year’s Rooster crop (his main crop) which he is already selling onto the market.
“We have been increasing our tonnage of Rooster and I expect we’ll harvest around 6000 tonnes this year,” he says positively. “Our land
lends itself to what we do.”
This is exactly what John Hicks and the company’s international manager Tim Hammond wants to hear. Ireland’s most popular potato, Rooster is their £23 million baby and best seller. And thanks to three years of solid, no-nonsense marketing the brand has had 70 per cent year on year growth and is a value brand suitable for niche and mass markets, says Hammond.
“Rooster is about 15 per cent of our volume (in UK’s fresh pack market) and the brand has grown really fast. If you think of something like a Jersey which gets 89 per cent recognition, Rooster is doing well,” he says.
“Rooster sits between the core and premium but we try to make sure it is priced as something that is affordable.”
Brunton adds, “Rooster has a lot of potential in the UK.”
Last year saw a chilled range of Rooster launch which Hicks says received ‘a pretty good consumer reaction’ followed by a second phase launch of frozen chips and rustic wedges that contain three per cent less fat.
Future marketing strategies will focus on taste, packaging and consistent branding. If you attend the British Potato Show in November or Fruit Logistica in 2010 you may run into Albert Bartlett. Hammond, who joined the company several years ago specifically to develop international strategic marketing opportunities, emphasises the importance of retaining a long-term marketing strategy.
“We are looking at long term success. We have done this in the UK and we are now finding the right producers to work with in Germany, France and Scandinavia. We have grown the crop in southern Spain but it’s a traditional Irish variety which prefers a cooler climate,” he says. The company’s development programme includes testing and evaluating novel, new and international varieties.
It’s important to understand the different consumer needs and trends from country to country. “In Europe for example, the average French consumer is savvy and increasingly wants local produce,” explains Hammond.
“We want to permeate north European countries within the next five years such as Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany and France. I’m optimistic about the EU market and Central Europe also offers scope for the future.”
“Variety development is changing as far as consumer needs. Atkins diets etc didn’t do us any favours. Convenience like ready meals is a huge part of it and many companies developed potatoes which looked great but didn’t taste great,” Hicks says.
Hicks and Hammond agree that at the moment consumers believe “price is king”.
“Household cooking times are down and people snack more often. And health is still a major issue for people. Potatoes are involved in all of those nice memorable meal times and we are looking at targeting a younger market. You change your eating habits as you go through life,” Hicks says.
“For us it is about getting people to step out of the core range and go into the premium range. With Rooster we have sold it on taste, versatility, packaging and the endorsement of two Michelin-star chefs who helped to show there is excitement there about the product.
“For us Rooster has been the key. We have other things in the pipe line but it is important for us to develop the generic part of the brand,” Hammond says.

Albert Bartlett is currently working on a national TV campaign which Hicks and Hammond hope will follow the success of previous campaigns such as their link-up with Phillipo Beno Olive Oil which was highly successful.
“We are making the move into chilled and frozen which is exciting for us. We are about to launch the new range of chilled with new packaging to fit into our identity,” Hicks says.
“All Albert Bartlett potatoes are graded at farm level, which has two benefits: it reduces the volume of on-site waste and strengthens control of product supply. We have never seen such a clean and orderly facility: sanitation and hygiene are a number one priority.”
The company’s fresh produce is supplied to the retail, food service, wholesale and processing industries. The retailers have a three-tier structure and Rooster sits between the core and premium but they try to make sure the brand is priced as something that is affordable.
“Supermarkets are 99 per cent of our business. Our main customer is Sainsbury’s but we also distribute to Tesco, Asda and Morrisons,” Hicks says.
The company also holds exclusive rights to the popular varieties Vivaldi and Osprey; and sells Vivaldi potatoes mainly to retailer Sainsburys in 40, 50, 60 pound packs. Hammond says, “We think Osprey is great – growers like it and it packs really well.”
“Our core remit is as a supermarket packer,” Hammond adds.
“We work our way back from the customer to the field. We used to go from the grower and go the other way but you have to be customer facing now,” Hicks explains. “It gives the grower a sense of identity and ownership and reduces the potential that there is not a market for the crop. One of the key strengths of ours is our agreement with the suppliers. It’s a very important partnership. We are helping them manage their crop and a lot of them are relying on our support. It is a joined up approach.”
“We have meetings where we have the growers and retailers in the same room. They have been constructive as it is about understanding both sides. By doing that it helps everyone to avoid unnecessary confusion about the process. It will never be 100 per cent perfect but it is a start,” he says.
“The retailer has to look at longevity. It is about having a long term view.”
The pack house, a £35 million investment, is divided into sections: washing, packing, cold storage and point of distribution. The company uses a combination of automation and manual packing; manual operations are better for different varieties, says Hammond. Equipment includes Bosch packers, Yamato headers and check weighers and Herbert Engineering washers, graders and packers.
Hydro coolers are used for optimal temperatures. Potatoes are guided out of barrel washers into the hydro cooler for 10-15 minutes, which takes out the heat to about five per cent. The coolers serve to extend the shelf life of new potatoes. An organic sector plays a small role in total production at about three per cent.
Software systems are an integral part of production and complete traceability explains Hammond. “Dry matter tests are performed when potatoes are brought in from farms, data is recorded and accessible to growers and used for analysis, research and audit trails.”
Jersey Royal Ltd and Albert Bartlett opened the Jersey facility in April (although officially this autumn) and it is a colossal story not only of investment, but of inspiration and success. Construction was carried out through 2008. The British project, which focuses on micro-regionality, has seen retired farmers re-enter the industry, expand their businesses and invest in new equipment. The company carried out consumer research in Jersey that revealed an 89 per cent brand recognition, which was excellent says Hicks.
“Jersey was going downhill and we had to save it, which we did. It is a big investment but its right for the customer so it is right for us,” he reasons.
The company has won several environmental awards, has a commitment to natural farming and a strong environmental focus. Water conservation measures include rainwater, borehole collection and recycling channels. “It’s all about saving energy,” says Hammond as we walk through the packhouse, which is self-sufficient, taking water from the roof.
Water wise and conscious about high discharge costs, the Airdrie plant is run by using three-quarters rainwater and one-quarter groundwater.
The company invested £1.5m to build its own wastewater treatment plant and less than five per cent of its water supply comes from Scottish Water. Rain water is channelled into one main lagoon.
An efficient soil recycling system that retrieves soil from the washing process delivers more than 40 tonnes of soil a week to regenerative projects like riverbank restoration.
“We hope to have a wind turbine erected within the next 12 months, which will generate up to 70 per cent of the plants electricity,” Hammond says. “We have ambitions to be the best in the business with state of the art technology.”

 

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