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'Great potential' for potato exports to Asia

Frozen and snacking potato products are particularly in demand as Asian consumers favour western foods, according to AHDB report

'Great potential' for potato exports to Asia

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There is rich potential for UK companies to grow exports of potato products to Asia, a new report has claimed. 

AHDB's new Horizon report focuses on Asia and aims to provide consumer insight to help British companies get a better understanding of the market. It puts the focus on three key products areas - meat, dairy and potatoes - which it says have particularly bright prospects at the moment.

For potatoes, Asian diets are shifting away from fresh table potatoes to processed products, and domestic processing capacity and production of processing varieties is often insufficient to meet demand, the report states. Frozen potato products are also in demand in regions where western-style fast-food restaurants are becoming more common. Snacking products are similarly in growth.

Japan imports the highest amount of frozen potato products in the region at 354,000 tonnes, mostly all of which are French fries, as almost all domestic production goes into the fresh market. While the majority of the frozen fries are currently supplied by the USA, the new EU-Japan trade deal will see tariffs solwly reduced to zero over four years, while the UK will have the chance to negotiate its own deal.

China and South Korea have also seen strong growth in frozen potato imports.

The snacking sector could also boost potatoes, with the Indian savoury snacking market, for example, set to rise 9.7 per cent in volume on average between 2017 and 2022. Potato chips make up 34 per cent of the value share currently, and across the wider Asia-Pacific region, crisps represent $6.2 billion in sales. 

However anyone considering moving into crisp exports should consider local tastes, with spicy masala flavours popular in India and seafood prevalent in Japan.

"Asia is a market which holds great potential for our potato industry," says Rob Burns, head of crops export trade development at the AHDB. "We are seeing increased demand for frozen potato products and savoury snacks, but it's vital that our producers in the UK have a greater understanding of consumer choice if they are to benefit from this growth in demand.

"We must ensure our products appeal to the target audience and are packaged in a way that conveys the right messages to the consumer."

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