Food service 5 June 2018

It all starts with

'The potato sector must be aware of the role and strength of the gastronomy,' says Paulies Melissant, independent food service specialist and former co-owner of a chilled ingredient producing company. ‘It all starts in food service by adding creative value. As a result, the consumer will rediscover the potato in the retail sector because both the retail sector and the food industry are inspired by the food service sector.’

Years of food history is available

Melissant continues: 'food is not invented by the food industry; it is invented and made available by gastronomy. Take a look at the work of the master chefs Eugen Pauli and Auguste Escoffier. My call is: embrace the past, the culture and invest in the culinary image of the potato.’

Paulies Melissant
Paulies Melissant

Origin is important in the culinary sector. Stories about where a product comes from or by whom it has been grown provide emotion and add value. Many Dutch potato varieties have perished by the focus on mass production. A country like France has cultivated its own varieties. In gastronomy French potato varieties are still gladly used.

Melissant wonders: 'as a sector, can we look beyond borders and embrace French, Maltese or Portuguese potatoes and tell their stories? This is important when it comes to building a culinary image for the potato.'

“The potato has to
be made attractive
by making it a
culinary ingredient
for the daily meal”

Differentiated convenience

Not only the consumer is in search of time saving solutions. Chefs are also looking for convenience. But it has to be convenience at chef’s level, so more than just French fries. And not every chef is a master chef. So you have to help. According to Melissant, one of the things that the sector has not given enough thought to is that differences between generations are getting bigger and bigger. 'Ease of use is different for every generation. Food is integrated into a life style; you are what you eat. Older generations are more driven by ‘what’ and new generations are more driven by ‘why’.  Nevertheless, we try to get everyone eating potatoes in the same way. That raises the question whether our way of selling still fits the demands of our target groups?

The Foodlov Pyramid

More than French fries

Potato consumption is declining in Western Europe, while the sales of pasta and rice continues to grow. Also, couscous, bulgur and quinoa are easily accepted and integrated into the western cuisine. Melissant thinks that the potato sector has let go: ‘the success of the French fries industry has gotten all the attention and it is clear that the processing sector has delivered a mega job. But potatoes are more than just French fries. Part of the market is volume and commodity, but another part of the market is specialty and about image. It is important to realize that and to target investments. Pasta and rice have a rich eating culture behind them. The potato cannot win that battle with volume and Quick Service solutions alone. It is all about image and inspiration. The potato has to be made attractive by making it a culinary ingredient for the daily meal. Not only for consumers, but also for chefs in restaurants. The sector has been focussed on commodity for years and this has shortened the potato as a valuable image product.

Arrange it yourself

The challenge is great, but it is overdue, according to Melissant. 'The consequences of not investing in the culinary image of the potato has been an open invitation for using rice, pasta, couscous, bulgur, quinoa, etc. It is all about a long-term strategy. It will take years to turn the tide. Everyone is fixed on volume. Do not rely on that alone. Start inspiring the food professional and the retail and food industry will follow. Not everything is price driven. Be proactive; arrange it yourself. Explain how you can apply the potato in a culinary way. Use convenience to chefs’ advantage and create experience and added value. This will pay off in the entire potato chain.'

Read more on Food service

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