Mighty Spud Campaign is reaching its conclusion

Ben and Laura pictured with the Ulster Farmers Union 'Mighty Spud' at the County Londonderry Agricultural Show on Saturday. INLV2816-511KDR
Ben and Laura pictured with the Ulster Farmers Union 'Mighty Spud' at the County Londonderry Agricultural Show on Saturday. INLV2816-511KDR

The Mighty Spud Campaign - the Northern Ireland potato promotion campaign, is nearing the end of its three year programme of work and activities.

Three years ago the potato industry was on a downward spiral but with foresight at that time, the potato industry knew that doing nothing was not an option. Other regions had forged ahead, while the local potato industry was being exposed, vulnerable and left behind.

All knew that returns to growers were not sustainable, consumption was falling – especially amongst younger consumers, and that the potato was being overshadowed by competing carbohydrates, fuelled by lots of myths and misinformation.

The campaign objectives included a drive to increase fresh potato consumption and promote local produce through encouraging existing customers and attracting new customers, especially those in the 16-45 age bracket.

The Industry Steering Group established to run the programme agreed that it would be funded through voluntary contributions from across the industry and suggested the following guide for voluntary contributions:

Ware growers £6/acre grown, seed growers £3/ acre grown for certification, grower packers £9/acre grown and packed or processed, packers/processors would contribute 40p per tonne packed for sale in Northern Ireland. All payments would preferably be by standing order for the duration of the three year programme.

The steering group acknowledged early in the process the need to appoint a campaign co-ordinator and communication professionals. Ian Duff and Morrow Communications were appointed and the campaign gained traction.

The Mighty Spud campaign set about to reposition the potato from the humble spud to ‘The Mighty Spud’ celebrating versatility and adding personality to the potato campaign. Social Media activity on Facebook – MightyNotHumble, Twitter @MightyNotHumble and a Webpage www.mightyspud.com were all commissioned.

Mighty Spud has supported both the Comber Potato Festival and NI Potato Festival at the Giants Causeway and attended local food and agricultural shows. Other activity included the Mighty Spud Awards, Feed a student for a week, cookery demonstrations and new graphic design backdrops. Balmoral Show gave the opportunity to include a chill out at the Mighty Spud couch potato area, with the added bonus of a mobile kitchen giving the public an opportunity to sit down and enjoy great local produce, including potatoes.

Education was an objective the campaign embraced with the kids at RUAS Balmoral and also the issue of approximately 850 school leaflets to local schools ‘Potatoes in the classroom Grow Mighty Spuds’. Deane’s Kitchen also played host to Michelin Chef Mark Abbott who travelled to Northern Ireland and gave a spectacular master class on how to cook and enjoy our local spud.

The campaign attracted much valued and additional support from DAERA, CAFRE, RUAS, NI Good Food and UFU; clearly showing that when an industry works together great things result.

Our Legacy - the Northern Ireland potato industry now has a:

l Marketing Image

l Leaflets, Recipe Cards, a website and social media presence featuring potatoes, their nutritional content and a user’s guide to potato varieties

l Mighty Spud – our much loved character

l Schools leaflet

Banners, Couch Potato seats and cushions for use at future events

The questions now:

l Did we make a difference?

l Was it worth it?

l What for the future?

Chairman of the Mighty Spud Campaign and UFU president, Ivor Ferguson, has welcomed the recent news that potatoes enjoyed a 12 month period of significant growth (Farming Life 30 June 2018).

“The campaign steering group can confidently answer ‘yes’ that the campaign has made a difference and was worth it,” he said.

“ I am confident our campaign did enhance the image of our local potatoes, make progress in educating consumers on the merits of potatoes as part of a healthy diet and helped in the industry fight back to lift potato consumption and provide a secure future for local quality potatoes.”