Lorcan Bourke , Fresh Produce and Potato sector manager of Bord Bia on Bord Bia, Teagasc, IFA, and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine joining forces to increase the volume of home-grown potatoes sold in Irish chip shops
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett has welcomed a new initiative aimed at helping Irish potato growers get their produce into Irish chip shops. Ireland, despite being a nation famous for potatoes and growing circa 300,000 tonnes per annum for domestic consumption, still imports 80,000 tonnes, or €45 million worth, of potatoes per annum. 64,000 (€33 million) tonnes come from the UK alone (source: CSO 2019). The majority of these fresh potato imports are used by chip shop owners. There are currently over 530 independent chip shops in Ireland (source: Euromonitor).
Opening a new distribution centre in addition to visiting a new purpose-built storage facility the Minister said: “A storage facility which maintains the correct sugar and starch levels in potatoes, as well as keeping them fresh beyond the winter period, is key to producing the quality that is needed in good chipping potatoes. So the development of such a facility, along with the official opening today of Ireland’s first dedicated potato packer and distributor focusing on the exclusive growing of potatoes for chipping, is a real opportunity for Irish growers to supply home-grown potatoes for the Irish chip shop market.
Growing chipping potatoes is a specialist operation, and the market for them is valued at approximately €20 million per year. I think the Irish consumer, given the choice, will appreciate businesses that support local growers. This is a welcome development that will shorten the supply chain and bring plant bio-security benefits, making it a significant step forward for the sector. I would like to congratulate all involved and I look forward to seeing how the initiative progresses over the coming years.”
In 2019, as part of the ‘chipping potato’ project, Bord Bia undertook consumer and trade research to understand both the Irish consumer and independent chip shop owner’s perspective. The research revealed that over 66% of Irish consumers (2 in 3) incorrectly assume that the potatoes used to make the majority of chipper chips come from Ireland. Approximately 3 in 4 are likely to support a chipper that sources locally grown potatoes, while 70% would consider it useful to know the country of origin of the potatoes used in their usual chipper through signage or recognised marks. The texture of the chips, the reputation of the chipper, and the appearance of chips were cited as the most important factors in making great chipper chips.
From the trade side, Lorcan Bourke, Fresh Produce and Potato Manager, Bord Bia was encouraged by the research findings. “Some chip shop owners have already successfully put a local supply chain relationship in place, demonstrating that Irish growers can grow chipping potatoes of excellent quality. Many of the chip shop owners working with locally grown potatoes saw local supply as a great advantage in their communications with customers. I firmly believe it is a win-win situation and I would encourage any grower or chip shop owner willing to support the initiative to get in touch or visit bordbia.ie/sourcechips, with a view to establishing new trading relationships.”
GROWING AND SELLING IRISH ‘CHIPPER CHIPS’
Meadowfresh Foods based in Tallow, Co.Waterford and O’Shea Farms/Iverk Produce, based in Piltown, Co. Kilkenny have joined forces to become Ireland’s first dedicated fresh chipping potato packer and distributor. Over the past two years, Meadowfresh and O’Shea Farms have engaged with Bord Bia, Teagasc, and the IFA to support the chipping potato project and proceeded to grow specific crops for the Irish chip shop channel. Bord Bia’s Thinking House has also been working with the companies to develop new local brands, which will be used to help market Bord Bia quality assured branded Irish chipping potatoes.✽
Lorcan Bourke is fresh produce and potato sector manager with Bord Bia. If you have any questions or comments on the content of this feature you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org