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Potatoes USA considers effects of coronavirus on consumer behaviour

Tom Karst writes in The Packer today that the 2020 annual meeting of Potatoes USA proceeded as planned even as news was breaking that the NCAA decided to exclude fans from its annual post-season basketball tournament the coronavirus, COVID-19.

While a handful of Potatoes USA board members chose not to make the trip for the March 11-13 meeting, Blair Richardson, president and CEO of Potatoes USA, said the event was broadcast over the web.

Some potato marketers said that sales of dehydrated potato flakes have increased while foodservice fresh and frozen sales have dropped. Most said they don’t expect long-term changes in how people buy potatoes.

The “anxiety economy” existed before both the coronavirus and the escalation of the 2020 presidential race, said John Toaspern, chief marketing officer for Potatoes USA. Toaspern spoke March 11 at the annual meeting.

“People are nervous; they aren’t really sure what to do,” he said. Millennials are delaying having children because they are concerned about the future, he said.

In the end, Toaspern said the coronavirus will eventually give way to long-term trends. As people look for a “silver bullet” way to eat, Toaspern said diet preferences such as paleo, keto, sugar-free, functional foods, and vegan may persist.

Promoting the value of potatoes as a performance food is a message that resonates with consumers he said. Food waste and sustainability will be hot-button issues for consumers in coming years, he said.

Despite the current alarm about gathering in public places related to coronavirus, Toaspern said the long-term trend for consumers is to eat out more.

Read the full report by Karst in The Packer here

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