The potato industry faces long term decline unless it does more to win over younger consumers, warns a new Potato Council report, seen exclusively by The Grocer.

Although the short term prospects for the industry were good (see Fresh Produce Supplement, p81), consumption levels were in danger of falling by as much as 17% over the next decade, claimed Potatoes - A Choice For Life.

The figure was a stark warning to the industry that it had to do more to persuade younger consumers to make potatoes their carbohydrate of choice, said the council.

Consumption under-indexed significantly among younger age groups and was highest among the retired, according to the report. Only 63% of individuals in the 'pre-family' demographic ate potatoes as their carbohydrate of choice, compared with 21% for pasta and 16% for rice. However, 86% of the retired consumed potatoes as their carbohydrate of choice.

The report showed growing awareness of the nutritional value of potatoes among consumers, with 81% viewing them as an important part of a healthy diet. Older age groups felt most strongly about this. However, one in seven children potatoes thought potatoes were fattening.

The report recommended that health messages be communicated to consumers "on a sustained, continuous basis."

It laid down 'seven pillars of wisdom' for retailers and processors to take account of in their marketing.

One pillar states: "You can't give consumers enough recipe ideas incorporating more imaginative ways to serve potatoes". Another explains that smaller families are the key reason why consumers buy fewer potatoes.

The new report, which comes five years after the council's previous category report, 'Potatoes - a Healthy Market', will be published next month. The council said it would give the most complete understanding of consumption habits available.