Potato promotion is gaining momentum

Michael McKillop of Glens of Antrim Potatoes shares his support for the NI Stakeholder Potato Promotion Group. Michael has joined the group to help encourage the consumption and enjoyment of potatoes across NI. A family-run potato supplier, Glens of Antrim Potatoes is based in Cushendall and has been operating for more than 40 years.
Michael McKillop of Glens of Antrim Potatoes shares his support for the NI Stakeholder Potato Promotion Group. Michael has joined the group to help encourage the consumption and enjoyment of potatoes across NI. A family-run potato supplier, Glens of Antrim Potatoes is based in Cushendall and has been operating for more than 40 years.
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Now that funds are accumulating the Potato Promotions Group has been considering what form the programme might take. These are only the initial thoughts of the Group and how much we can do will depend on the level of funding which is eventually contributed by the industry.

We are very grateful for the money still being received but ask those who still have to contribute to do so before the end of March so we can plan our year ahead.

The format and themes will be sharpened and developed through the engagement of a professional marketing or public relations organisation, but our first thoughts are that the general approach should be to hold a series of events throughout the country this year based on a common theme such as “Celebrating our Local Potatoes”.

These will build on and link to other events such as the very successful “Comber Earlies” and “Causeway” Potato Festivals and will be done in association with organisations such as Food NI and Taste of Ulster to give us a strong focus on consumers and the food service and restaurant element of the supply chain. Effective use of social media will be an important element of the entire programme so we engage positively with younger consumers.

A major effort may well be concentrated on a Potato Week or Weekend in October 2015 to coincide with the main potato harvest. For a number of years now a very successful Potato Day has been organised in the South by the IFA and Bord Bia, and we would hope to mesh with this so we have a major potato promotion week or weekend throughout the whole of Ireland.

We believe that by working together with others during that week under a common theme, we can get more leverage and building on it with a series of events such as open farms, school visits, menu features and point of sale promotions. We are hopeful that we can deliver an exciting programme which attract attention and will lift the profile of potatoes, promote their nutritional value, and overcome the misconceptions that they are boring and a “yesterday food”.

Contrary to the belief of some local potatoes can, when grown and stored correctly, make excellent chips. Chips produced locally from home grown potatoes are being supplied to some of the most prestigious hotels and restaurants in the country.

To profile this, we would like to be able to hold an event in February 2016 to coincide with the very successful Chip Week organised each year by the Potato Council in Great Britain. This attracts over 800 entries from chip shops throughout the country that are using locally produced chips. Customers would vote for their favourite “chippy” to find the “best” in the country. Northern Ireland businesses cannot enter the Potato Council competition so we are considering running our own within Northern Ireland.

All this is at an early stage but the Group is excited about the opportunities which can be delivered with support from throughout the industry. By starting work in 2015 we will be better able to capitalise fully on the recently announced Year of Northern Ireland Food in 2016 and tap into any support provided by the proposed AgriFood Promotion Body in future years.