Exclusive: Demanding Consumers Come from High-income Countries
In this exclusive interview with Stefan van Merrienboer, analyst F&A with RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness, we discuss the current state of the potato industry worldwide, as well as estimates for the future and consumer behavior.
By Dan Orehov
How would you evaluate the current market for frozen potatoes in terms of trade and how do you see it evolving?
If you look at the last decade (starting 2007), developments were dominated on one hand, by consumption growth for frozen processed potatoes, which I think is also, in large part, driven by uptake in consumption in markets such as Asia, Middle-East, Africa and South America. And if you take it one step further, I think the market for frozen potatoes is driven by the development of fast food chains like McDonalds, Burger King and similar, which are expanding. In the last 10 years, processors in Belgium and the Netherlands benefited from this growth. Take Belgium, for example, where they doubled exports between 2007 and 2017.
Is it fair to say that the largest market for frozen potatoes goes to the foodservice industry, rather than retail?
That depends a bit on the market, because I think in Europe, for example, more specifically in the Netherlands and Belgium, there’s a home-frying culture. Retail sales of frozen processed potatoes are larger. If you look at the numbers, 30%-40% in Europe represent the retail volume being sold, but if you look at countries in Asia, it is predominantly foodservice, as people are consuming their fries outside of the home.
If we were to speak about sustainable practices in the potato industry, what can you comment on sustainability and on the need of companies to adhere to them?
I think if you look at sustainability for the potato crop itself, this is a one that is susceptible to diseases of soil, as well as crop diseases. It is important, going forward, that processors and growers work together on achieving sustainability goals. The Netherlands is a good example, the cropping plan in the country is a very high-intensive plan with sugar beet, onion and a relatively low number of rotational crops such as wheat for this region. Processors need to work with growers to ask questions like “How can we work on soil health?” and “How can we reduce the use of crop protection?” It is a shared responsibility of developing the sector further. In Western Europe, consumers are also asking about sustainability, what are processors doing to ensure this standard and I think it is important that the sector is also pro-actively addressing these questions.
To read the complete interview, please refer to the May-June 2019 issue of Potato Processing International.