Tim O'Connor, United States Potato Board president and CEO, discusses the good news about consumer attitudes and potato consumption at the USPB's annual meeting.
"We’re back, baby, we are back and that is big,” said an enthusiastic O’Connor, at the United States Potato Board’s annual meeting March 10.
Improved consumer attitude about potatoes, increased consumption of potatoes in the United States and international sales over $1 billion annually for the past three years had the normally staid O’Connor almost giddy.
During his speech at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, O’Connor told the audience that a recent survey completed this past January shows that consumer attitude towards the potato has finally returned to pre-Atkins diet levels.
“We’ve been measuring consumer attitudes for a long time,” O’Connor said, “and when the Atkins diet hit it was a shock because over night negative attitudes spiked up about potatoes.”
In 2004, at the height of the Atkins Diet, 35 percent of consumers expressed a negative attitude about potatoes, up from 17 percent, a number that had remain unchanged for years.
“I’m excited to tell you that our most recent survey of consumer research we fielded in January, we just got the results prior to this meeting, we are back, we are back to where we were before these low carb diets hit, we’re back to only 18 percent of consumers being negative about potatoes which is where we were for years prior to the low carb diets and that’s a substantial change if you look back to 2008 to 2011,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor attributed the change in consumer attitude to everyone involved in the potato industry — state organizations, shippers, retailers and processors.
“The whole industry together. We’re back,” he repeated emphatically, and with that someone in the audience yelled, ‘yeah,’ and the entire room broke out in applause.
O’Connor said the single biggest problem facing the industry over the past seven years was consumer attitudes — and those drive the economic health of the industry.
The good news didn’t stop with consumer attitudes.
“I’m so excited, this is one of three big pieces of news. Consumption increased for the first time in years,” he said.
“They’re eating more potatoes. And a lot more. So we’ve changed attitudes, now we’re changing behavior. People are eating more potatoes. That’s a big deal, that’s a really big deal,” O’Connor said to another round of applause.
Moving on to the international marketing sector, O’Connor praised the fact that for the past three years international sales have been over $1 billion annually.
O’Connor finished his presentation citing a number of new alliances throughout the industry dedicated to improving quality and addressing nutritional critics that continue to hector the industry.