A surge in consumer demand for healthy home-cooked foods has seen a 'phenomenal' uplift in fresh potato sales – with increases as high as 70% with certain customers, according to Tom Keogh, managing director of well-known potato and crisp company Keogh’s.
However, following a challenging winter and consequently late planting of new season potatoes, extra care will be needed to ensure – on a bigger picture – that supplies of old-season potatoes last as long as possible.
Speaking to AgriLand, Keogh outlined the impact that Covid-19, and the subsequent measures to limit the coronavirus, have had on his company and the broader industry.
He highlighted the difficulties suppliers have been having with the potato crop this year.
“From the farming side of things, it’s kind of business as usual.”
“They’re thinking about their health, their immune systems, and they’re eating a lot healthier than they normally would – and that’s brought a lot of people back into the potato category. We’ve seen increases as high as 70% with certain customers.”
He added, however, that this shift in demand will 'put a huge amount of pressure' on supply chains nationally. However, he noted that it is too early to make a call on it yet. Tom Keogh:
“Hopefully, as the panic kind of subsides, a bit of normality will come back into the market. But we’re definitely seeing a big shift into potatoes, just from a healthier eating point of view, it’s driving increased demand.”
“It’s good for the category but we just need to be very, very careful that we manage the supplies to get us through to what will be a late arrival of the new season.”
“Turning to the snack-food side of the business, Keogh noted that there has also been a spike in demand here too, though on a later time-scale. However, the food service end of things has essentially disappeared.”
Snacks And Food Service
“On the snack food side of the business, it was a relatively late surge because obviously snacks would not be considered as an essential item.”
“There was such a huge pull on supply chain distribution to get food onto the shelves of the retailers over the last three weeks, that there was probably about a five-day delay in actually pulling snack foods back onto the shelves in any big way – but we have seen a huge increase.”
“Once it caught up, it caught up in a big way. We’re seeing over 100% of an increase in sales in some lines.”
However, he highlighted that this was being balanced by the disappearance of food-service trade:
“Counter to that, the whole food service side of the business has literally disappeared overnight.”
“So all the cafes, all the restaurants, a lot of the small delis that sell our crisps – that trade ceased, literally at the drop of a hat. We’ve seen that decimated; we’ve lost all of that.”
“But we’re hoping that the increase in multiple retail – the Tescos, the Musgraves, the Dunnes Stores – we’re hoping that the volume in them will compensate for the loss of volume in food service.”