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The end of lockdowns and a decline in home cooking have led to a slump in potato sales

The potato has lost its pandemic bounce. After years of sluggish sales, spuds soared to the top of the veg league in 2020 thanks to their comforting and versatile properties.

But the end of lockdowns and a decline in home cooking have led to a £70.9m slump – the biggest loss in this year’s Top Products Survey. “Consumers moved away from potatoes and root vegetables as a result of better weather during 2021,” says Lisa Rees, NielsenIQ retailer team leader.

Plus, Brits’ efforts to combat lockdown weight gain means “these categories may have borne the brunt of diets. An added factor was the reopening of eateries.”

Potatoes’ loss, however, is tomatoes’ gain. It’s now the number one veg, having gained an extra £22.0m in sales. That’s testament to its enduring versatility and ability to “transform” a recipe, says Gianmarco Laviola, MD of Napolina tomato processor Princes Industrie Alimentari.


Over in fruit, there has also been a dramatic loss for the former leader. Brits spent £42.4m less on bananas this year, seeing them fall to fourth position.

That slump is due to post-lockdown shoppers broadening their horizons, suggests Simon Trewin, commercial director for importer Comapagnie Fruitiere. “During lockdown, there was far less prepared fruit being sold, with consumers preferring whole fruit purchases such as bananas,” he explains. “But with shoppers moving back to pre-pandemic patterns, a wider spread of fruit is again being purchased.”

As bananas slump, strawberries emerge as the biggest winner in fruit. Unseasonably cold spring weather meant the UK crop was delayed this year by more than a fortnight. But when it arrived in early July, the harvest was so plentiful that Tesco was able to buy an extra 400 tonnes and slash prices, offering a kilo for just £3. Shoppers gobbled them up, helping strawberries to a £26.1m gain.

This performance helped the overall fruit market deliver an improvement even on last year’s stellar sales. Shoppers spent £23.6m more on the sector in 2021, with grapes and blueberries, like strawberries, enjoying particularly solid growth. They added £32.9m between them.

Top Launch 2021

Root Zero | Puffin Produce

Root Zero - product shot front - Planet Friendly Potatoes

Launched into Co-op in October, Root Zero is the UK’s first carbon neutral potato brand, claims Puffin Produce. That’s achieved through a combination of carbon offsetting and use of “sustainable farming practices to remove carbon dioxide, create healthy soil and increase local biodiversity” the supplier says. It intends to further reduce the carbon intensity of Root Zero spuds (rsp: £2.50/2kg) by 51% by 2030, covering emissions across the entire supply chain.

The Grocer’s Top Products Survey 2021: who’s up, who’s down – and our overview of the key trends