Potatoes have ‘huge image issue’ among the youth

Bord Bia study reveals millennials buy potatoes ‘far less’ than rest of the population

New campaign to encourage younger Irish people to post pictures of their potato dinners on social media. Photograph: iStock

New campaign to encourage younger Irish people to post pictures of their potato dinners on social media. Photograph: iStock

 

A multimillion euro campaign is being planned to encourage younger Irish people to post pictures of their potato dinners on social media after a study found the staple has a “huge image issue” among them.

As part of research carried out over recent months, millennials were asked in focus groups what words they associated with different carbohydrates.

While quinoa was associated with “hipster”, “new” and “modern”, a wrap was “cheeky”, “young” and “fresh”, the humble spud drew connotations of “older”, “farmer” and “GAA player”.

The Bord Bia-backed study also found millennials – those born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s – buy potatoes “far less” than the rest of the population.

Irish people aged 18-34 put about 78 kilos of spuds into their shopping baskets every year compared to the 123 kilos being piled into trolleys by the average shopper.

Lorcan Bourke, a business analyst with Bord Bia, said “there is a job of work to do” in turning around the image of potatoes among younger people before they go on to start families of their own and influence trends for generations to come. “There is a huge image issue there,” he said.

“If people are growing up in their 20s thinking potatoes are kind of uncool, that is a danger. Because that starts a pattern of never using them.”

Most younger people get their recipes from social media platforms like Instagram rather than from recipe books, families or magazines, the research found.

While the number of millennials buying potatoes is high – almost eight in 10 bought a bag in their last grocery shop – researchers found they were reluctant to post pictures of their spud-based meals.

Boiled potatoes

Dishes including quinoa, pasta or brown rice as well as ethnic meals were seen as much more “exciting” or “aspirational”.

“These guys are doing things differently to how we would have done it,” said Mr Bourke. “They bring their lunch to work during the week, and splash out at the weekend. We need to look at recipes that work for their lunches, and batch cooking, and in the evenings they only want to spend 15 minutes preparing a meal.

“They think of boiling potatoes taking 40 minutes, so there is a lot of work to be done in giving them 15-minute recipes. And we need to show them potatoes in dishes from around the world.”

The research found almost six in 10 millennials believe potatoes are good value for money, 56 per cent associate them with low food miles, 54 per cent said they taste great and 50 per cent are consuming more because of the high fibre content.

Campaign

Bord Bia is teaming up with its counterparts in France and Belgium in applying for funding from the EU for a three-year campaign “to reposition potatoes in the minds of millennials”.

It will focus on their social media platform of choice, the picture-driven Instagram.

With some industry funding, they are planning to spend €1.2 million a year on the promotion, starting in January 2020. The EU will decide on the funding in October.

The campaign follows a similar effort focusing on women aged 22-44, which is credited with reversing a plunge in the sales of potatoes in Ireland over recent decades, which reached an historic low in 2012.

Aoife Hearne, dietician and Bord Bia ambassador, said “the myth that potatoes are fattening or that carbohydrates as a food group are bad for you” also needs to be dispelled.

“Consuming potatoes is to be encouraged as we all need good quality carbohydrates for our bodies and particularly for brain function,” she said.

“Potatoes are naturally fat and gluten-free, a great source of fibre, Vitamin C and a variety of B vitamins. They also contain three times the amount of potassium found in bananas.”