Despite year-round availability, Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year’s, Easter and even Mother’s Day remain the most common occasions for promoting sweet potatoes, says Mike Kemp, vice president of brand development for Market Fresh Produce LLC, Nixa, Mo.
But with demand for sweet potatoes growing by double digits, he says, “We suggest promoting them at least once a month, especially the 3-pound bags, since consumers like the grab-and-go feature.”
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“(Bags) are one of the fastest growing segments in sweet potato sales,” says Jason Bell, owner of Tater Man, Sydney, Fla. “Retailers should truly
promote this category, especially with all the positive nutritional press that is being given to sweet potatoes.”
Grilled sweet potatoes are great during the summer, especially with pork, adds Benny Graves, executive director of the Vardaman-based Mississippi Sweet Potato Council.
Year-round sweet potato sales have doubled over the past three to four years at the three Modesto, Calif.-based O’Brien’s Market locations, says Gary Camarillo, produce manager for one of two Modesto stores and buyer for all three locations.
Still, sales skyrocket around Thanksgiving, and store displays are about 10 times bigger — and more spread out — during the holidays.
O’Brien’s merchandises some of the tubers at the front of the store in a special fall foods display. Stores also feature some sweet potatoes in the produce department near the onions and dry goods and place others near the turkeys.
During a typical week, the stores each move up to five 40-pound cases, but Camarillo sells up to 1,500 pounds for Thanksgiving. Together, the three stores move about 3,000 pounds for that holiday, he says.