In 2020, HZPC Americas launched the multi-year project ‘Potato Glory’ together with the University of Massachusetts Dining Program (UMass) for the purpose of conducting research and to provide students and employees with information on potatoes. This kills two birds with one stone: UMass learns more about potatoes, and HZPC gains more insight into opinions and behaviour in relation to potato consumption.
Jeff Scramlin, director of HZPC Americas, explains why it is important to obtain insight into American potato consumption: “In North America, potatoes are not understood or appreciated as well as in Europe. We have noticed a decline in potato consumption in the US and Canada under the influence of food trends. People do eat potatoes more frequently but they do so in much smaller portions.
“If we want to turn the tide, it is important to have a far greater understanding of what people think about potatoes and of what their eating habits are. We have decided to conduct research into this among Generation Z (Gen Z), people born between 1996 and 2015. This generation will have a significant influence on potato consumption in the future.”
An ideal partner
No less than 70% of new food trends start in the food service sector.It’s no surprise then that HZPC Americas is collaborating on this project with a major player in this sector. UMass Dining serves 50,000 meals a day and has already been awarded various prizes. UMass Dining is a trendsetter in North America.
The university conducts regular surveys among students, in which they are asked, for example, about their eating habits and preferences. The surveys often have a response rate of 80-85% and therefore provide a lot of information. UMass is an ideal partner for HZPC to work with in order to gain greater insight into the food service sector and Generation Z.
Insight into consumption behaviour
“This is a very interesting partnership for HZPC, as we can conduct questionnaires among the students at the start and end of the semester. By conducting research on a regular basis and over a longer period, we can see what effect our programme has on the purchasing and consumption behaviour of students. Every semester, we work with around five interns who act as student ambassadors to get other students interested in potatoes.
“We also organise a variety of campaigns and promotional activities and work closely with the chefs. A first important step is to change the potato’s image: instead of being a high-calorie ball of starch, the potato is, above all, a healthy vegetable,” Jeff explains.
Learning more about the potato
The university also benefits from working together with a global player in the potato market.
Jeff says: “HZPC naturally brings with it a considerable amount of knowledge relating to potatoes. We provide advice on growing potatoes but we also educate about the endless possibilities of the potato varieties. We explain what the differences are and how you can use the different potatoes in dishes. We demonstrate to students and employees how to tell potatoes apart based on their skin colour and that not all yellow potatoes are ‘Yukon Golds’.”
Planting a seed
Previous research carried out by UMass Dining has shown that the eating habits of students during their studies will stay with them long after graduation. By explaining about potatoes to this particular generation and showing them how to prepare the different potatoes, HZPC is planting a seed for the future. The key to making changes to potato consumption in North America lies with them.
Jeff says about this: “We hope that Potato Glory will help us make a real change to the image and consumption of potatoes. If consumers start to appreciate potatoes more and know more about what they can do with them, then demand for potatoes will increase. It would help if more information were to be provided about the potato on the packaging from now on: how to prepare them and which dishes you can use them for.
“Closer alignment with the demands and needs of consumers also calls for changes to be made to the potato industry. Our ultimate goal is to transform the potato into a product with a great deal of added value instead of the basic product that it still is now. This will also put HZPC’s potato varieties more visibly on the map.”
Find more information about Potato Glory here