Potatoes in Canada

Features Markets and Marketing
Editorial: Appealing to a new generation

March 17, 2024  By  Derek Clouthier

One of the things that stood out to me during our Canadian Potato Summit this year was how much the industry has expanded in Western Canada over the last few years – particularly in Alberta and Manitoba.

Much of this expansion, at least in Alberta, is helped by McCain Foods making the largest global investment in the company’s history last year into its Coaldale, Alta., facility, doubling the location’s size and output.

The majority of the potatoes grown in Alberta and Manitoba are for processing purposes – making foods like fries and chips. In 2023, Alberta was the top potato producer in Canada, with an output of 32.063 million hundredweight of potatoes. Manitoba was second with 29.760 million CWT and P.E.I. third at 25.813 million CWT.

According to Canadian government statistics, 65 per cent of potatoes grown in Canada are utilized for processed foods, while 22 per cent are fresh and 13 per cent are seed.

Only two potato-growing provinces allocate a higher percentage of their tubers for fresh consumption – B.C. at 83.6 per cent (none of B.C.’s potatoes are used for processed products) and Quebec at 45.5 per cent fresh and 41 per cent processed.

I bring this up because one of the other issues that stood out to me during the Canadian Potato Summit was how the industry should be marketing itself to younger generations, like Gen Z and Millennials, who generally tend to be more health-conscious than other generations when it comes to food choices.

Though everyone loves a good helping of French fries or a bag of chips, fresh potatoes are an essential, versatile and affordable food choice for Canadian families, but sometimes gets neglected by younger consumers.

But that does not need to be the case. Mashed, roasted, boiled or sautéed, potatoes perfectly accompany various cultural dishes, from Greek, Indian and Chinese to English and Canadian.

Getting the message out about the various ways potatoes can be healthily prepared is something the industry should prioritize as the Traditional and Baby Boomer generations – which grew up with potatoes being a staple on their plates – are no longer the primary potential consumers of potatoes.

There are also new tools at our disposal to help prepare some of our beloved potato dishes. Take air fryers, for example; they provide a quicker and much healthier way to enjoy things like French fries, home fries (or hashbrowns as some people call them) and even a whole roast potato.

Though we don’t have any cooking tips in this year’s issue of Potatoes in Canada, we do have the latest in research that is aimed at helping growers produce the best and healthiest crop. Our features touch upon such topics as the latest advancements in the fight against potato wart, developing varieties with resistance to potato greening and how selenium could be used to control late blight.

We also summarize the 2024 Canadian Potato Summit, which, if you missed this year, you can check out potatoesincanada.com and watch all of the presentations on-demand. 

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