By By Michael Jarvis, Head of Marketing, Albert Bartlett

6th December, 2021

“A potato is a potato is a potato” – an often quoted maxim, but one which the Albert Bartlett and Guy & Co team has been successfully combating for a decade.

Albert Bartlett founded the company in 1948 and since then it has grown from selling beetroot boiled up in a tin bath in a garden shed in Coatbridge to a large food company, specialising in potatoes of which it currently supplies almost a fifth of all of the UK’s consumption. It remains an independent, family-owned company, headquartered in Airdrie, with further sites in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Jersey and Perthshire.

The company’s breakthrough into branded fresh potatoes came with securing the exclusive rights to the Rooster variety in the early 2000’s. The Albert Bartlett Original Rooster is a premium quality potato with a distinctive red skin, but still, “just a potato”. It required dogged determination and considerable investment in distinctive blue packaging, TV advertising and an insistence on stringent quality control and service to our retailer customers to build it into a brand which now has almost 50% share of the branded potato market and one of the highest levels of consumer loyalty in the category.

The Albert Bartlett brand has been built on a no nonsense, earthy, honesty.  For example, chef ambassadors Michel Roux Jr and the late Andrew Fairlie endorsed our products only after serving them for years in their restaurants first. The company has also not been afraid of some self-deprecating humour over the years – notably in the famous Marcia Cross adverts. In 2015, faced with a fresh potato market which remains huge, but gently declining and ageing, the company took the decision to diversify into frozen potato products. The market is younger and in growth but is also fiercely competitive – in fresh Albert Bartlett dominated the branded category; in frozen, the might of McCain’s, Aunt Bessie’s et al was a different story and early branded progress was tough. The same insistence on product quality, making our chips from potatoes grown, prepared and frozen in the UK, great service to our customers and investment in marketing have allowed the brand to grow to have a sizable foothold and it is now the fastest growing frozen potato brand (Kantar 52 weeks to 11/7/21). The portfolio was further complemented by the addition of chilled prepared potato products manufactured in Airdrie from 2019.

Guy & Co became the lead creative agency on the Albert Bartlett brand in 2019 and the “Do the Albert Bartlett” campaign was born that autumn with an ad tapping into the shared joy of cooking and the emotional attachment to potatoes. Our Dad and Daughter dream team danced around the kitchen to the funky sound of James Brown’s Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, whilst members of the band appeared in unexpected places like the kitchen cupboard – or maybe they were just imaginary? The Brand New Bag of the song was carried over into reality by adopting the use of reduced thickness, recyclable plastic packaging for all of our main products, saving 92 tonnes of plastic in the first year.

Moving to the present and just-launched “Do the Extraordinary” campaign. We listened to research with our consumers which told us that they loved the entertainment and emotional appeal of the Dream Team execution, but felt that we were not providing enough rationale for why they should pay a premium for Albert Bartlett potatoes. We took the feedback and made our obsession with product quality into the focus of the advert, in a bold and humorous new direction for the campaign.  Three acrobats leap, tumble and juggle through the process of selecting, washing and drying not just good, but extraordinary potatoes to make it into Albert Bartlett bags. Music, which was so vital to the Dream Team advert, remains important but once again has been subverted by using an extract from an opera (of-course!). The acrobats are fully integrated across all of our activity from the hero TV ads to social media films and even our new recipe films.

The Guy & Co and Albert Bartlett team believes that these new expressions of the campaign will shake up the category and consolidate our position as a brand leader – the proof will, of-course, be in the next few months, but, to return to the opening statement, it could be amended to state, perhaps more accurately, “All potatoes are equal, but some are more equal than others”.