Dig in to sweet potatoes - The Packer

Dig in to sweet potatoes

11/02/2012 03:59:00 PM
Tom Burfield

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.

Besides standard sweet potatoes, O’Brien’s offers red Japanese yams.

Camarillo cross-merchandises sweet potatoes with such items as marshmallows and nuts.

He advertises sweet potatoes a lot during fall and for the Easter holiday and features them occasionally during other times of the year.

Typical ad price is 2 for $1 compared with a regular price of $1.49 per pound.

Sometimes, especially around the holidays, the stores feature 3-pound bags of sweet potatoes, which shoppers like for their convenience. But O’Brien’s specializes in top-quality produce, so consumers usually prefer to pick out their sweet potatoes themselves from bulk displays, Camarillo says.

O’Brien’s also features cubed and cleaned sweet potatoes in 1-pound cello bags for the holidays, and 1-pound bags of organic sweet potatoes also are good sellers, he says.


Local product

Thibodaux, La.-based Rouses Enterprises LLC, which operates a chain of 38 supermarkets, specializes in “local” sweet potatoes from Louisiana and Mississippi, says produce buyer Pat Morris.

Besides traditional varieties, the stores offer specialties like the jewel, which it procures from Frieda’s Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif.

Morris expands displays from 3 feet to 4- to 6-feet around Thanksgiving and Christmas, when sweet potatoes are on ad nearly every week.

During the rest of the year, Rouses features sweet potatoes about once a month, and sometimes they’re written up in the in-house healthy-living magazine, which publishes farmer profiles.

The stores offer regular and petite sizes and sometimes merchandise 5-pound bags. The chain also offers organic sweet potatoes in bags and sources clamshells of cubed product from a South Carolina processor.


Sales boosters

Want to sell more sweet potatoes?

The U.S. Sweet Potato Council suggest that you offer two sizes — No. 1s and jumbos; offer loose, bagged and individually wrapped sweet potatoes; offer two colors, such as rose and cream colored; and stock up for Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year’s, Easter and Mother’s Day.

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