Focus on the humble potato

UFU's Ivor Ferguson
UFU's Ivor Ferguson

The Northern Ireland Stakeholder Potato Promotion Group will be attending the Northern Ireland Potato Festival at the Giants Causeway today (Saturday 1st October) from 10am to 5pm.

A special guest appearance will be made by the Mighty Spud. Come along and meet the potato breeders, growers and producers.

Enjoy one of many activities including: Artisan Food, Children’s entertainment, Cooking demonstrations, Celebrity Chef’s, Art & crafts, Helicopter rides, Children’s rides, Displays & exhibits, Food stalls, Farm machinery and enjoy free of charge access to the Giant’s Causeway and Visitor Centre.

Since the last update in January this year the programme has been busily growing and the Mighty Spud character is now a recognised symbol of our campaign.

The key activities since then have included:

The Mighty Spud Awards which caught people’s attention and attracted over 300 entries and a lot of good media coverage.

The stand at Balmoral Show was very successful and was staffed in conjunction with Slimming World. We produced a new leaflet on “Varieties – how they cook and look” and cartoon backdrops for the stand showing the key messages on healthy nutrition and the fact that skin finish has no correlation with eating quality. These have subsequently been produced as a leaflet.

The star of the show however was the Mighty Spud character which was a great attraction to children and adults alike, as he/she roamed around the site.

We also ran a County challenge “Mighty Spud Sack Race” at Balmoral with the YFC, which added a bit of fun but proved highly competitive!

We, along with the Mighty Spud, have also attended the Comber Potato Festival and Limavady Show, where Mighty was photographed with the Minister, who wore one of our “I Love Spuds” stickers.

The Mighty spud has attended a school to present an award associated with the Comber Festival and was involved with the Open Farm weekend.

A lot of these activities and our ongoing Social Media campaign helped us progress an entry about the Mighty Spud marketing campaign into the recent “GrowMakeEatDrinkAwards” for which we were nominated as one of the final three in the category - this was a ‘Mighty achievement’ only to be beaten by Henderson Spar for their multimillion pound food rebranding campaign.

So what of the future?

Provided we have ongoing industry financial support our campaign plans include:

Growing and developing our social media campaign – this again has been recognised and is nominated in the Best Use of digital and Best Social Media in the Chartered Institute of Marketing Pride Awards.

We hope, as part of the Year of Food harvest month, to have some growers erect posters on their farm - “Mighty Spuds Grown here” and to invite local schools to see potatoes being harvested.

Progressing an “Apprentice” type challenge for Colleges with catering courses. Students will be required to produce and sell potato dishes. We hope the Colleges will be receptive but time will tell.

The continuation of the Mighty Spud Awards scheduled for early 2017

The Mighty Spud campaign co-ordinators will have a stand at the annual Potato Festival being held at the Causeway today (Saturday 1st October). We need strong representation and financial support from growers to help us drive the potato campaign forward over the next few months.

Chairman of the NI Stakeholder Potato Promotion Group UFU Deputy President Ivor Ferguson (pictured) said the bottom line of course is whether this activity is having any impact on consumers.

It’s great to be able to report that recent research (supervised) by a Masters Student at University of Ulster does suggest that we are winning:

80% of those surveyed said that purchasing habits for fresh potatoes had either increased or remained the same.

Weekly consumption of potatoes is on average 45% higher than rice and pasta

71% of people surveyed said they were influenced by the messaging around health, convenience and inspirational recipes

“As chairman of the Promotion Group it is pleasing to report our success to date has been built on this campaign being a truly industry wide initiative and to grow our campaign we welcome much needed financial support from the entire NI Potato Industry including growers.”