Retail 13 November 2018

The cautious evolution
of a potato culture

Retail, part 2 - Sonae stores promote health aspects of potatoes

Potatoes are indispensable in the Portuguese cuisine. They are the basis of traditional dishes. Nevertheless Sonae, market leader in retail, has modernized its display of potatoes. The company also promotes how excellent potatoes are in terms of nutrition.

The Portuguese gastronomy is rich in dishes and recipes. Potatoes play a major role in the daily meals. They are used in the soup, cooked, grilled, baked, mashed or prepared in the oven.


  • 284 Stores in Portugal
  • Market leader in retail trade
  • Trendsetter

3 types of stores:

  • Hypermarkets (Continente)
  • Supermarkets (Continente Modelo)
  • Convenience stores (Continente Bom Dia)

Sonae currently wants to expand the amount of convenience stores; small retail businesses that sell everyday products in busy city areas. ‘It is a way to get even closer to our customers.’

‘Traditional dishes continue to be popular,’ says Pedro Camara, Vegetable Procurement Manager at Sonae. ‘Potatoes are a very important product in our range. In volume they represent 28% of our turnover in vegetables.’

Attractive packaging

For decades potato sales have been fairly stable in Portugal, but a few years ago sales began to decline slightly. Sonae decided to develop a new and more attractive area in its stores to display and sell vegetables. The company also designed a completely new potato segmentation.

‘We noticed our customers struggling to make their choice when shopping for potatoes,’ explains Pedro Camara. Sonae created new packaging. It now has a more natural and attractive look and feel. Rustic and homely.

Information on the new packaging also emphasizes the specific quality of the potatoes in the bag, i.e. suitable for frying, baking or oven. And for every preparation methods there are three or four kinds on offer. The results were good: the stores noted an increase in vegetable sales.

Competitive price is king

As far as potatoes are concerned, the price is decisive for the Portuguese consumer. ‘Traditionally, people are used to buy potatoes at competitive prices. So the stores mainly compete on price. It is very important to have good offers and constantly advertise and promote our prices.’

“We emphasize more and more how excellent potatoes are in terms of nutrition”


Apart from competitively priced bulk potatoes, the Continente supermarkets also offer premium varieties. ‘We put a lot of energy into promotion. For example, around Christmas, when people focus more on quality dishes and are willing to spend more money, we have offers with our premium labels.’

Healthy food

In a traditional, conservative consumer market it is challenging to introduce new products. Yet Sonae observes an increase in interest in both healthy and luxury gourmet food. That is why the company has expanded its range. ‘We see, for example, that fresh seasonal varieties like `light potatoes’ appeal to our customers.’

According to Pedro Camara, consumers think that potatoes are full of calories. ‘That is why we pass on the message that potatoes are a healthy product. Both in the shop and in brochures, we emphasize more and more how excellent potatoes are in terms of nutrition. They contain less calories and fat than, for example, rice and pasta products.’

The manager of Sonae thinks that not only the supermarkets, but the entire potato value chain should communicate this message in a united and active way.


Portuguese consumers are used to spending a lot of time and care on meals. They buy their potatoes fresh. Chilled, peeled potatoes have a small market share.

Nonetheless, Pedro Camara expects that convenience food and ready-made meals will gain market share in due course. ‘Both at home and abroad we see that young people are getting used to convenience in terms of meals. Sonae will certainly also respond to that trend.’


Read more on Retail

Modern customer wants more variation in potatoes A number of interesting developments and trends can be observed in retail with regard to fresh potatoes. We visited some large European retail chains and created a series of articles. Read part 1: Albert Heijn, The Netherlands. 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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