A survey conducted by the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) has shown that Canadians are a contrary lot.
Dr Gefu Wang-Pruski, who headed the NSAC effort, brought the results of the 6,000-household survey to the recent annual Potatoes NB Trade Show and Conference.
The Potato Consumer Research Initiative, headed by Dr Wang-Pruski, set up the study about two years ago at NSAC to examine the social aspects of potato marketing. While some of the results were predictable, others came as a surprise.
According to the survey, consumers want to see the potatoes in the store which means they want them in transparent packaging, but they don't want farmers to use plastic bags because of environmental concerns.
"We used the ‘focus group' approach," explained Dr. Wang-Pruski to potato industry stakeholders. "We chose the Truro area and we chose Halifax as the medium size city. Toronto was ‘the large city' in our survey."
The study asked grocery shoppers what they wanted to see when they go in a store to buy potatoes. They talked about cooking with potatoes, purchasing behaviour, the in-store presentation of potatoes, and about innovative varieties.
The 90-minute discussions went into the subjects of packaging, the sizes of potatoes, specialty varieties, commercial varieties, and some value-added products. All the discussions were recorded and the data were put into a software program.
"Most of the participants want to see fresh, firm, ripe, medium size, and white," Dr Wang-Pruski said, "and if the potatoes don't fit this mental frame, this is something they wouldn't choose. They also appreciate the wide use, the applications of the potatoes. They can be prepared in so many different ways and fit into many types of dishes."
She went on to say that ‘lifestyle dynamics' plays a key role in the consumption of potatoes. The age of the consumer, what type of work they do, and similar factors have a bearing on what form they buy their potatoes, or if they buy them.
"Where the tubers are from, their size, and their appearance," are all important," she said.
"They would like to see the potatoes in their packaging," Dr Wang-Pruski said. "They want to feel the potatoes because they want to have uniform size, and those two things do not fit with the paper packaging."