Campaign wants to rid the potato of its “humble” image

14 - 01 - 2019

A worldwide campaign intends to create awareness regarding the importance of potatoes in our diet and to improve our economy. “Potatoes are currently taken for granted. With our campaign entitled ‘Imagine the world without potatoes’, we want to let consumers personally formulate the answer to the question what potatoes mean to them”. This explained the intention of the campaign when it was officially launched at the Interpom-Primeurs sector trade show in Kortrijk. The aim is that all partners in the potato chain include this message in all their correspondence and, by so doing, achieve maximum effect.

CIP, the International Potato Center, is a research institution that was founded in 1971 to do research on root crops and on potatoes in particular, the aim of which is to provide sustainable solutions for problems such as hunger, poverty and the breakdown of natural resources in developing countries. As long as ten years ago already, CIP was the driving force behind the International Year of the Potato of the United Nations and it is now launching a new campaign to promote potatoes. The campaign revolves around the topic “Imagine a world without potatoes”.

Potatoes have become one of the most important crops for farmers in Belgium. Trade and the processing industry have made us the largest exporter of deep-frozen potato products and the chip shop culture has been recognised as international intangible cultural heritage. But attention for the “humble potato” is on the increase in the rest of the world too. Today, over one billion people in more than 160 countries eat potatoes as staple food. A total of 300 million tonnes of potatoes are harvested all over the world every year.

China and India are already the largest potato producers in the world. As a matter of fact, in 2015, the Chinese government developed a plan of action to replace rice and grain by potatoes because the crop forms a rich source of foodstuffs and requires less water than rice and less land than grain. The demand for potatoes from China, India, Africa and South America is expected to increase, while consumption in Europe is expected to decrease. The worldwide number of potato producers and the trade in potatoes have increased by 84 percent during the past ten years.

André Devaux, Regional Director of CIP in South America and himself a Belgian, expects that potatoes can become “globally sustainable superfood”. Yet, potatoes are often not perceived as such, not even in Belgium. This is shown by research by VLAM (Flanders’ Agricultural Marketing Board) and APAQ-W (Walloon Agency for the Promotion of Quality in Agriculture). Consumers see potatoes as an ordinary product that is and will always be available. CIP wants to change that by conducting a worldwide campaign. “You cannot tell consumers what they must think, but what you can do is to make them stop and think about products that they take for granted and ask them the question what they would do without it”, says Marc de Beaufort whom CIP has made campaign manager.

So, the idea was to make consumers think about a world without potatoes, which created the campaign slogan: “Imagine a world without potatoes”. De Beaufort, who is also the campaign’s originator, is currently travelling all over the world to convince organisations, companies and governments to join him in spreading this message. “We are not asking them for money but are requesting them to include this slogan in all their correspondence. If everyone spreads the same message, then the effect will be all the stronger.”

About 20 countries, including Peru, India, Norway, Ireland, China and Canada, have already joined in backing the campaign. A number of multinationals are also willing to chip in. For example, PepsiCo, which produces products such as Lay’s crisps, will launch a large campaign in which the slogan will be used. “If other companies also incorporate this message in all their communication, they will be able to share in the benefits from the yields of the marketing efforts of such multinationals”, says Marc de Beaufort.

Belgapom and Interpom-Primeurs have also joined in to back the campaign. “We call on all participating companies on the stock exchange to join us in embarking on this project”, says Romain Cools, Secretary of Belgapom and Chairman of the World Potato Congress. “By cooperating on raising awareness regarding the importance of potatoes, our cultivators, traders, processors and suppliers can make their contribution to ensure that potatoes get the place they deserve.”

The Flemish Minister for the Environment, Nature and Agriculture, Joke Schauvliege, finds that a world without potatoes is unthinkable. “Belgium belongs to the greatest in the world when it comes to potatoes. We must spread that passion for potatoes all over the world. Potatoes are universally top-class and should be included in every menu”, according to Ms Schauvliege at the Interpom-Primeurs. The Minister also pointed out that the American TV star, Oprah Winfrey, said once that she imagines heaven to be one enormous baked potato and someone to share it with. “Maybe it’s time that we replace manna with potatoes as the holy food of angels.”

Source: VILT