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We know who's producing all those spuds, but who is eating - and not eating - them?

The good news is that the world market for frozen potato product continues to grow at a healthy clip of 7% to 8% annually The bad news for producers is that price have been falling lately as supply has outpaced demand.

In Europe, the bulging potato belt stretches from England across the Channel to Dunkerque in northern France, through Belgium's fertile Flanders fields, to Holland's ever-productive Bintje country, into Germany, Poland and as far east as St. Petersburg in Russia. Combined output is expected to arc upwards in the years ahead, fueled by major investments that upgraded and built new processing plants in Belgium and the Netherlands during the 1980s. The trend has been further stimulated by substantial sums of money being plowed into the long under-exploited farms of eastern Germany.

None of this bodes particularly well for price stability, unless new markets can be developed or old ones are expanded to take rising tonnage from mounting harvests. With the United Kingdom 35%), France (25%) and Germany (22%) eating the lion's share of frozen potatoes in Europe, some analysts have pointed to the low-consuming nations of Italy (3%) and Spain (2%) as having the best potential for growth, along with developing countries in the Middle East and East Asia.

Lesson from Coke?

Other observers, such as American restaurateur Don Karas, suggest that french fry producers should take a "drink" from Coca-Cola's winning formula and increase volume sales by convincing foodservice operators to give away their products. "Refills of Coke and other beverages are now free in many fast food restaurants. Why not give away a second order of fries?" Such an idea may fly better in the intensely competitive USA sector than in Europe, where caterers like their potato product profit margins wide. What Continental marketers have to do in the near-term is address the reasons why ex-users of their products have left the fold. NIVAA Holland (the Dutch Potato Board) recently commissioned a survey of 1,000 retail consumers and 500 caterers across Europe. Its findings proved interesting.

Catering

In the catering (foodservice) sector, 29% of former frozen potato eaters said they now prefer fresh potatoes, while 12% indicated that they like to make their own potato specialities from scratch. Other reasons given were: price, 11%; inadequate kitchen equipment, 11%; not tasty, 8%; discontinued fat-frying, 3%; don't use frozen foods anymore, 3%; health considerations, 2%; no frying facilities available, 2%; end product is too greasy, 2%.

Retail Response

As for home consumers, the emphasis was different. Twenty-three percent reported that they prepare potato specialities themselves; 14% just don't like the taste of frozen spuds; 13% indicated a preference for fresh over frozen.

In the nine leading national markets for pommes frites in Europe, it was found that 60% of caterers are current users of frozen varieties, while 10% are ex-users and 30% have never put them on the menu. Retail sector respondents revealed that roughly 35% are present users, with 20% being former users, and 45% registering as non-users who have never tried frozens.

Shares of markets segmented by age, income and household size came in as follows on a pan- European basis ... Age: 18-34, 65%; 35-44, 63%; 45-64, 52%; 65 , 41%. Income: low, 51%; middle, 58%; high, 62%. Household size: single, 46%; two persons, 53%; three persons, 62%; two children and two parents, 68%; five persons or more, 64%.
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Title Annotation:News from Europe; frozen potato product market in Europe
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:561
Previous Article:Competition intensifies in potato field as overcapacity puts pressure on profits.
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