March/April 2021

Studying potato trends throughout the retail sector
By Kayla Dome, Potatoes USA

To understand shopping habits for all potato categories at retail, Potatoes USA partnered with Kantar Insights Consulting to conduct a total store potato study. This study identified detailed opportunities for all potatoes throughout the store.

The year 2020 was full of change and transition for everyone, including the potato industry. Sales in grocery stores for potatoes reached nearly $14 billion and increased by 16% compared to the previous year. Eighty-six percent of households purchased potatoes from one or all of the potato categories available across the whole store, and the average basket size reached $79 when potatoes were in it.

In fact, consumers continued to stock up on potatoes because they are a household staple, they had a recipe, or had to replace another item.

The research showed not only is the perimeter of the grocery store important for increasing sales, but so is the center of the store.

Perimeter and center store

In 2019, the majority of consumers were shopping the perimeter with only limited trips into the center aisles for essentials. In 2020, retailers saw a return to the center store categories and potatoes were included in this trend.

The fresh potato has typically been a key driver in total store sales for retailers. Baskets are typically larger when fresh potatoes are in them and this did not change in 2020. What did change is how those fresh potato consumers ventured to other areas of the store. The types of items in the basket with fresh potatoes shifted from milk, bread and eggs to other pantry stocking items. For example, fresh potato consumers used to purchase primarily fresh potatoes, but now they are consistently buying frozen potatoes as well.

Frozen potatoes ended up seeing the highest increase in repeat purchasing compared to any other potato category. The best news for this category is that consumers did not only come to the freezer section to stock up in March, they came back for repeat purchases through the end of the year. 

Consumers cited the following factors for continuing to purchase: 

  • The benefits for children.
  • The great taste of frozen potatoes.
  • The fact that they felt good feeding frozen potatoes to their families.

Dehydrated potatoes also saw a lift. They are being purchased as part of a full meal, showing the convenience factor is a large contributor to the purchase decision. However, the biggest change in the dehydrated consumer came from their basket size. The dehydrated potato consumer spent the most dollars per shopping trip compared to every other potato category.

In-store

Ninety-four percent of consumers are compelled to purchase potatoes after seeing information, packaging and resources, such as in-store recipes. This punctuates the importance of having the right signage in-store to increase sales of all potato categories. Previously, in-store displays in various locations were the most important factor in reaching higher retail sales. Now, the information on these displays is incredibly important to the retail consumer when making a purchase decision. Retailers should focus on highlighting the convenience of particular potato items, and the nutrition information should be visible on these displays. Nutrition information converted about 15% more shoppers into buying more potatoes.

In addition to nutrition information on signage and highlighting potato convenience, retailers should focus on providing consumers with inspiration. Research showed that retailers with interesting and fun potato sections showcasing innovative products, were more likely to see higher potato sales. As we move forward, consumers expect retailers to create a strong in-store experience.

Online

Online sales for potatoes have significantly increased as consumers became more comfortable ordering perishables in 2020. More potatoes were being picked up curbside and delivered than in 2019, which means consumers were using retailer websites more consistently to purchase potatoes. About half of consumers visited retail websites to plan their shopping trips. They used the retail website to get detailed product information, find healthier options for items they typically buy, and recipe information for potatoes. It is important retailers focus on strong landing pages for potatoes to continue seeing growth in sales in this space.

Overall, 2020 was a year of growth for potatoes at retail. With the tools discovered in this total store study, retailers can continue to reach consumers where they are looking for potatoes, and better equip them with information so consumers continue to buy more potatoes at retail. A report summarizing this study can be downloaded from PotatoesUSA.com.

— Kayla Dome is the global marketing manager for retail for Potatoes USA, the marketing arm of the U.S. potato industry. 


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