Background
Retail 10 July 2018

Modern customer
wants more variation
in potatoes

Retail, part 1 - Albert Heijn refreshes presentation and expands its range.

For the largest quality store in the Netherlands, the potato is a major article. Albert Heijn provides more variety on the shelf and gives the product a modern look. ‘We put the potato in the spotlight.'
 




Potatoes have always been a regular part of the hot meal in Dutch households and not a day goes by without them. ‘The potato is deeply rooted in Dutch culture,’ says Michelle Belt, category manager for potatoes, onions, fresh pasta and fruit preserves at Albert Heijn.

The new potato shelf at AH

  • Transparent foil packaging
  • Small packaging
  • Product information
  • Separate sales
  • Culinary tips
  • Variation in offer
  • Organic potatoes

However, there was also a slow decline in the consumption of potatoes at the leading Dutch supermarket chain. ‘People have started cooking differently in recent years. This can be attributed to international influences and the increasing variety of dishes on the menu. Potatoes are not always part of that,’ explains Michelle Belt. Moreover, people have busy lifestyles nowadays and preferably seek out convenience products in the store.
 

“The customer still has a positive feeling about the potato”
Michelle Belt
Michelle Belt

‘In daily shopping, the fresh potato was in danger of becoming somewhat forgotten. That is unfortunate, because it is a beautiful, nutritious product. Customer research also showed that people still have a very positive feeling about the potato.’

Albert Heijn helps its customers to rediscover the potato. The prominent shelf in the fresh department has received a major makeover. Most striking is the new foil packaging. It is transparent, because ‘it is a shame to hide such a nice fresh product’. There is now also more choice in small packages and the customer can also buy portions of loose potatoes.

In addition, Albert Heijn gives consumers a helping hand with information and buying tips. On the packaging, on the shelves, on the internet and in personal customer mail. The popular customer magazine Allerhande published a full edition with tips and recipes on the versatile potato.

“How do I prepare a stew tonight?”


 

This is necessary because many people do not know which recipe options and preparations the product offers. Michelle Belt: ‘In particular, the younger generations are less familiar with the preparation of potato dishes. For example, they would like to make a stew, but do not know which potato is suitable for it. We help them to make that choice.’

The range has also been expanded with new products and potato varieties. Like baked potatoes in a handy steam bag. And the brand AH Excellent Colomba, a potato that contains fewer calories. There are versatile table potatoes, slightly crumbly potatoes and firm cooking potatoes. In addition, there is a shelf with potatoes to use for preparations like steaming, baking, French fries and stew. And there are ‘specials’ - potatoes with a distinct taste, such as the Frisian Borger in season, or the Gourmande.

Also strong and special is the advance of organic potatoes. ‘There is increasing demand,’ says Michelle Belt. ‘For example, we introduced the Carolus. This is a potato with a less attractive appearance yet it is a tasty variety that is resistant to the disease Phytophthora. No pesticides are used during cultivation. That ties in with the specific experience of the consumer.’
 

“The sales figures
also show
the success”

Albert Heijn is content about the new approach and presentation. ‘Our employees are the eyes and ears on the shop floor; they notice how the customers’ respond. And we also see the success in the sales figures.’
 
According to the fresh manager, modern consumers nowadays mainly focus on convenience, health and variety.  ‘We are responding to those trends. Because Albert Heijn’s starting point is and will remain that ’the customer is always right’.

Michelle Belt therefore advises suppliers and the potato sector to stay away from uniformity and bulk. ‘You must ensure that you never falter in your offer. Even with a beautiful and fresh product like the potato, you always have to look for innovation and opportunities to distinguish yourself.’
 


Soon on InZpire


Part 2    Sonae stores in Portugal promote health aspects of potatoes: The cautious evolution of a potato culture


Read more on Retail

The cautious evolution of a potato culture A number of interesting developments and trends can be observed in the retail trade with regard to fresh potatoes. HZPC toured a number of large European retail chains. Read part 2 of a series of articles: Sonae. Read this article Better perception on the potato shelf The vast amount of products available today leaves the consumer with a great choice. What do you have to do to make sure that your product is chosen? Read this article Tips from a retail group In this film, Nuno Miguel Pita, Fruit & Vegetable manager at Sonae Portugal, tells us about trends and developments he has seen in consumers and on the market. Read this article

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