Retailers and suppliers have to work harder to address the volume decline in potato sales, a report by the Potato Council has warned.

The council’s report - A Fresh Challenge; Addressing the Volume Decline - said that the industry faced an increasing “fight for relevance” as shoppers cut back on the number of spuds they bought without realising.

The report revealed the volume of fresh potatoes sold had fallen by 8% over the past year [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 25 May 2014], and 90% of consumers who were buying less were not aware they had reduced purchase levels.

This was partly because retail pack sizes had been reduced and because some consumers had switched from main crop to salad potatoes, which were typically sold in smaller bags, said Caroline Evans, head of marketing and corporate affairs at the Potato Council.

“It’s good that people are not actively rejecting the category,” she said. “People still like potatoes, but the challenge is that we need a different approach from the whole supply chain.”

This included better signposting in stores and a greater focus on recipe ideas, Evans suggested. “Shoppers need distractions and better signposting. We need to interrupt them in store. A lot of shoppers make an emotional connection when they see a potato in its prepared form, rather than as a raw vegetable.”

The report also said the growing popularity of curry and fajitas and efforts to reduce food waste had led to reduced volume sales. More attractive pack imagery, promotions to focus on prepared meals and a greater focus on convenience could help address this, it suggested.

“This is a key battle ground: convenience is the area where potatoes are scoring poorly against competitors,” said Evans.