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.
“From the farming side of things, it’s kind of business as usual,” he said, highlighting the difficulties suppliers have been having with the potato crop this year. About 20% of the crop has overwintered in the ground. Now the silver lining in the cloud is that the weather is actually very good at the minute, which means we’re actually harvesting.
Keogh described the crop as “in relatively good condition”, adding that this is a big plus from a supply point of view.
Turning to the bigger picture, the founder of Keogh’s Crisps highlighted that the winter was both bad and late, meaning there is “almost zero” new season spuds planted in the country. This means that the arrival of new season potatoes is going to be delayed, which means that we need to ensure that old season potatoes last as long as possible.
From a sales point of view, he said: “The uplift we’ve seen in fresh potato sales in the last three weeks is phenomenal.”
Keogh said, while there had been something of a panic buy, he believes people are eating more vegetables in general. 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.