Chips are down as we snub the humble spud
"WANTED: experts to investigate why households aren't eating spuds for their dinner.
"Must suggest ways to make the humble tuber more attractive and help parents present them as an exciting or 'cool' dinner option to their youngsters."
An Bord Bia is to commission market research to find out why people are choosing pasta, rice, noodles, couscous and other carbohydrates over the traditional potato.
Despite annual sales of €136m, the food advisory board is concerned that more people are turning to other alternatives.
Now the board wants advice on ways to overcome the potato's reputation as a dull or 'grey' vegetable.
A "complete profile of decision making" among shoppers is required but the survey must be completed before the end of January, just in time for the National Potato Conference on Valentine's Day.
Tender documents provide details on what information is required by An Bord Bia to help boost sales in its 'Market Research in the Consumer Behaviour and Attitudes toward the Consumption and Usage of Potatoes and other Carbohydrate options in Ireland' study.
It seeks a deeper insight into the "dynamics of the Irish potato market", and says information should be sought from 800 people across a variety of consumer groups that must include schoolchildren.
"We believe that, emotionally, most Irish consumers still love to eat their potatoes but several key issues negatively impact on their consumption," the board said.
These issues include the mistaken belief that spuds are fattening.
Lorcan Bourke from Bord Bia said it was trying to understand how consumers made their dinner choices.
"Potatoes are still the number one carbohydrate, but there has been a decline of about 10pc year on year," he said.
"There's more options out there. We have found that emotionally, Irish people love their spuds, but they just aren't eating as many.
"People see potatoes as a healthy carbohydrate, and recognise the value for money. On the downside, there is a perception that they're fattening, which has hung around since the days of the Atkins diet, but potatoes actually have the least amount of fat. The issue with spuds tends to be the butter that goes with them.
"We want to see how other people are marketing their carbohydrates. Typically with pasta or rice, there might be a sauce beside it. There's issues there we want to take a look at."
Although more people are buying fresh fruit and vegetables, potato sales are falling.
Discovered by the Spaniards in the 16th century, but eaten by the Peruvians 2,000 years previously, the potato remains the most popular of all vegetables.
In Ireland, about 12,000 hectares of land is planted, and there are 600 commercial potato growers. More than half are based in north Leinster and Meath, Dublin and Louth are the key production areas.
For more information, log on to www.potato.ie.