Branding creates trust and consistency creates loyalty

As the EU faces the economic crisis retailers and growers alike are looking at how to attract consumers to the fresh produce section. Rick Bourne, Category Director for ASDA UK, spoke about maximising potential in this mature market at the recent World Potato Congress in Edinburgh.

Rick is responsible for sourcing and supplying produce to over 18 million customers every week, he said its how growers respond to what the consumer wants which is the key. "It is a tough market, I meet a lot of customers and deal directly with growers everyday. One of the issues is that consumers think the potato is a simple thing whereas growers see it as very complex. We need to break the habits of consumers and create reappraisal of the potato."

The market for fresh potatoes in the UK has declined 6%, whereas the frozen market has increased by14%, the prepared market has grown 7% and is still on the rise.

Rick went on to say that added value is very important, branding creates trust and consistency creates creates loyalty. Consumers these days are also buying less more often, increasing numbers of shoppers are shopping three times a week instead of the traditional once a week, also the old 2 for 3 deals just don't work anymore because in the first instance the consumer simply may not have the money to buy multiple packs, secondly they are much more concious of waste.

The potato is also having to compete with other foods such as pasta and rice and is facing questions about how healthy it is. 

Growers need to look at just who is buying the products and exactly what they want. Rick explained that the tendency is to buy local. "Growers and retailers must provide transparency. With the use of QR codes the consumer can scan the code and see who the grower is and using Google maps see exactly where he is, the social is also an important medium. Price transparency is also important.

The online side of retail is becoming more and more important, at the moment 1 in 10 customers shop for groceries online, Rick reckons that in the next 4-5 years this will increase to 6 in 10.

He concluded by saying that there remains big opportunities in this sector, "imagination is more important than than knowledge, people don't know what they want until they are shown."

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