Potato Buyers Shopping for Inspiration

A new study released by the United States Potato Board (USPB) finds fresh potatoes are more of a planned purchase than ever. At the same time, however, the research paints the picture of a potato shopper as someone who is more prone to getting meal ideas and inspirations while shopping – and this is precisely the point where the retailer’s potato table often disappoints.

The Denver-based USPB and its research agency, Sterling Rice Group, fielded a landmark study of potato shoppers in late summer 2011 which sought to understand how, when, and where the core consumer shops for potatoes. The study also aimed to identify the shopping trip types when potatoes are most likely while also assessing and prioritizing factors influencing potato purchase decisions (before and during the shopping experience) in the retailer’s produce section and beyond. The research encompassed both an extensive online quantitative study of 1,900 primary food shoppers ages 20-69, as well as more comprehensive longitudinal online ethnographies with a smaller group of participants.

“Our research found conclusively the greatest opportunity retailers have for increasing potato sales is to give their shoppers more suggestions and information about using potatoes once they get back home,” said Kathleen Triou, the USPB’s VP of domestic marketing. “Today more than nine out of 10 potato purchases are planned – a significant increase from research we had conducted only the year before – meaning retailers should be focusing more on ways to get potatoes on the shopping list rather than trying to create an impulse sale in the store.”

Earlier studies by the USPB had discovered the core consumer for fresh potatoes enjoys serving them to their families, and would be willing to serve them more often if given new ideas and recipes for preparing them. The latest study took this one step further, finding these consumers are more likely to enjoy shopping and admit to wandering the aisles looking for ideas and meal inspirations.

“Yet our study found this is exactly where most retailers are missing the opportunity,” added Don Ladhoff, the USPB’s retail program consultant. “When potato shoppers were asked to evaluate the potato table relative to other sections of the produce department, they awarded it high marks for organization and ease of shopping – but gave out the lowest scores for providing information, making them think about buying something different or giving them new ideas of how to prepare potatoes.”

So at the critical moment of truth – when a shopper who wants to serve potatoes more often and tends to get her meal ideas from shopping is standing in front of the potato display – the retailer often settles for organization over inspiration, and does little to spur the incremental consumption that, in turn, will drive increased potato purchases.

The USPB’s research also reinforced why attracting potato purchasers is so important to a retailer. The study found when shoppers are buying potatoes, they reported spending an additional 10 minutes in the store on average versus shopping trips without a potato purchase (47 min. vs. 37 min.), and picking up twice as many items (33 vs. 17). Potato shoppers also averaged six additional shopping trips every year, and described spending over $1,500 more on groceries.

The USPB has produced a short video highlighting the key findings from the comprehensive potato shopper research.

Retailers who would like more information on the study’s findings or want to learn how the USPB can help them capitalize on the implications should contact Don Ladhoff at 415-215-2448 or [email protected].

To unearth more goodness about the USPB and its programs, click here.

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