Concerted promotion of potatoes as a healthy food is being credited for a major surge in sales across the category over the past year – with even chips and crisps recording large increases.

The fresh potato category is now worth £996m, up 6.4% in the 12 months to 18 May [TNS]. Sales of white potatoes are up 4.3% to £737m, and red and Maris Piper potatoes have both risen 18.7% to £75m and £97m respectively.

The sales rise could be attributed to more positive messages being put out about the health benefits of potatoes, said TNS Worldpanel analyst Ed Garner at an East Midlands grower event organised by the Potato Council. 

The positive messages were also boosting sales across the chip and crisp sectors, Garner added, with chip sales up 7.8% to £498m and crisps up 7% to £636m. 

Garner cited campaigns such as McCain’s It’s All Good initiative and Walkers’ Muddy Marvellous campaign and ingredient reformulation as examples of positive product messages.

“The lesson for food producers is clear: don’t get hung up on negative issues,” said Garner. “Present the positives to the consumer – it works.”

The Potato Council has been promoting heavily on health grounds over the past year. “We have changed people’s perception – consumers now view potatoes as more healthy than pasta,” said Potato Council marketing manager Kathryn Race. 

“The reason it works is that the industry is working together promoting the same positive message to the consumer.”

All the major sectors of the potato market have been in growth over the past year, with sales of general frozen potato products also up 8% to £186m. 

Though sales of potato salad (-6%), instant mashed potato (-9%), chilled potato wedges (-17%) and canned Jersey potatoes (-20%) all fell, these products have smaller market values, with none of them worth more than £21m.