Scotland finds our quality chips to be extremely tasty
The growth in home cooking during the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more families here picking up packs of local potatoes for meals.
It’s a development that Angus Wilson of Wilson’s Country in Craigavon, our largest potato processor, has been working towards for many years.
In addition, novel potato products from the Northern Ireland company last week won acclaim for their quality and taste from retailers in Scotland in the shape of a major award for a UK producer in the influential Scottish Retail Food and Drink Awards.
Angus, who founded the company in 1987, is delighted to have won the award from influential Scottish retailers. “It’s a tremendous endorsement of our You Say Potato fresh cut potato chips in an important market outside Northern Ireland,” he says.
“Building business in Britain for our versatile and convenient potato products is a key business growth target for us. This award will help to increase awareness especially among retailers throughout Scotland. It was also great to see other local companies Thompson’s Family Teas, Hellbent and McColgan’s Foods being recognised in the awards.”
The company has found families have had more time at home to prepare and enjoy food during the pandemic. Consumers were also much more interested now in the provenance of the food they were preparing, cooking and eating.
Wilson’s, which sources potatoes from farms here and in the Republic of Ireland, has faced challenges from pasta and rice over many years and has sought to meet these by coming up with smart ideas that have made cooking and storing potatoes easier than ever before. They’ve also highlighted the great versatility and nutritional value of the ‘humble spud’.
It’s an imaginative strategy which is now yielding positive benefits for the family-owned business and dozens of local farmers. While the growth in home sales has been a massive boost, the company lost some business from the closure of hotels, restaurants and canteens due to the lockdowns. These customers are steadily being recovered with the easing of the restrictions.
“Our potato sales to shops and supermarkets grew at more than double the local market average in 2020,” Angus says. “Independent market research found than Wilson’s Country sales grew by almost 18% last year against a market rise of just eight percent,” he adds.
And there was further good news for the company, a Food NI member, in the shape of confirmation that it has become the top fresh produce brand in Northern Ireland.
Angus continues: “The latest survey figures reflect the culmination of many years’ work and investment by the company to enhance our competitiveness against other options such as pasta and rice. All of our key indicators are up: market value, number of shoppers buying potatoes and the volume of potatoes purchased per visit.
“We have always been committed to delivering consumers total satisfaction, where product quality, eating satisfaction and convenience are concerned. By taking this approach, we feel that we are also providing best value for money.
“The reality is that the potato is now no longer viewed as just the humble spud. Consumers realise that fresh potatoes can be at the centre of an exciting culinary experience and can be used in so many different ways – boiled, mashed, sliced, roasted, sauted, dices and of course chips
“Variety plays a part in this regard. But so does convenience. In our own case we have developed the ‘You Say Potato’ range, that includes fresh cut chips, skinny chips and baby potatoes with garlic and herb butter. Our potatoes are suitable for the microwave. This development has helped to boost our sales dramatically,” he adds.
The company had also created smaller and more convenient packs to overcome concerns among consumers over dirt from storing large bags of potatoes.
“Our objectives are to continue with our strategy of sustainable growth through further development of existing markets and exploiting new opportunities for different products in what is a very challenging business environment,” he explains. “We monitor our markets very closely and are geared to respond quickly to opportunities in new products and packaging as they arise.”
The company’s marketing had also sought to showcase the nutritional value of potatoes as an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, and B6, with protein and minerals such as potassium, manganese, phosphorous and niacin. In addition, potatoes were a good source of antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of some chronic diseases.
“The perfect scenario moving forward would be for local consumers to retain the interest in potatoes that has been rekindled over recent months and to have this reflected in their eating choices, both at home and while out,” he concludes.
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