Pota­toes will shine again

“Maybe a PR job needs to be done on the hum­ble potato,” the pres­i­dent of Food Writ­ers New Zealand, Niki Bez­zant, told the con­fer­ence.

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“But maybe that ad­jec­tive needs chang­ing. Have peo­ple fallen out of love with pota­toes and what can we do about that?”

Every­one is busy and con­stantly jug­gling dif­fer­ent de­mands in their lives, she said.

“They feel the pres­sure but it’s dif­fi­cult to know what to eat and the mes­sages are of­ten con­flict­ing.”

Of­ten food is sold as a quick fix or a new thing that will solve all a con­sumer’s prob­lems. Not only is this con­fus­ing but on­line it is easy for any­one to be an expert and hard for a viewer to dis­cern how cred­i­ble they are. Peo­ple are not read­ing as much as they used to so head­lines have a greater im­pact on so­cial me­dia.

“And there are al­ways peo­ple who are at­tracted to weird di­ets,” she said.

“Trends come and go. Low carb di­ets are in vogue now but they have been around for as long as di­ets.”

When it comes to pota­toes, she said there is good news and bad news “but a lot of amaz­ing pluses”.

“It’s a kiwi sta­ple,” she said.

“We eat a lot and it’s al­ways in the top two with toma­toes. Peo­ple do adore spuds.”

But there are po­ten­tial im­age prob­lems for pota­toes.

“They’re not cam­era-ready and pretty in a world of so­cial me­dia where there’s a lot of food porn,” she said. “They aren’t pa­leo, and while you can eat them if you’re a ve­gan, you can’t if you’re a raw ve­gan.”

She de­scribed as “car­bo­pho­bia” peo­ple be­ing scared of eat­ing car­bo­hy­drates. A ham­burger with­out buns is sad, “but not as sad as potato-free French fries made from chick peas”.

“But peo­ple are not nec­es­sar­ily ra­tio­nal about food and what they say and what they do don’t match up.”

Re­cent re­search con­ducted by Fon­terra showed that two-thirds of New Zealan­ders aren’t re­strict­ing any­thing in their di­ets, but around 8% are re­strict­ing carbs, roughly the same amount as say they are gluten-free or meat-free.

“It’s time to cel­e­brate the spud and tell the story of the potato,” she said.

“Peo­ple want their food nat­u­ral and un­pro­cessed and they want to hear your story.”

But there is no New Zealand potato grower on In­sta­gram, while there is a quinoa grower who can tell the story of her pro­duce “from ground to grill”.

Di­ets will con­tinue to come and go, but Bez­zant is con­fi­dent pota­toes will have their time to shine again.

“We want to try to in­spire peo­ple to fall back in love,” she said.

“We can re­ha­bil­i­tate the potato so peo­ple see it as far from hum­ble.”

q Niki Bez­zant.

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