Holidays are still the most popular time to promote sweet potatoes, but companies are working to expand use year-round.
“We as an industry and many retailers have been stuck in a sweet potato rut, that is we promote at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, and let the rest of the year take care of itself,” said Jeff Scramlin, director of business development of the Raleigh, N.C. office of Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC.
“There is no reason why we can’t promote sweet potatoes year round. It’ll help us not only grow sales, but get new consumers,” he said.
To get out of the holiday habit, Scramlin said the company plans to pursue cross promotional efforts, and seasonal opportunities like summertime grilling.
“We think the opportunities are endless,” he said.
Recipes that feature sweet potatoes outside of casseroles are helpful in bringing attention to the category all yearlong.
“As an industry, we could expand the use of sweet potatoes by showing the diversity of the sweet potato,” said Kim Matthews, co-owner of Matthews Ridgeview Farms, Wynne, Ark.,
For one thing, expanding the targeted age profile is an area companies can focus on.
“We want to start developing a younger consumer profile, many of today’s sweet potato consumers are empty-nesters and baby boomers, we are targeting our next generation of consumers,” Scramlin said.
“It only makes sense to keep talking about sweet potatoes beyond the holidays. Product is available, and with social media, there are ideas and creative ways to use sweet potatoes all year long,” said Leah Brakke, marketing director, Black Gold Farms, Grand Forks, N.D.
“If the industry keeps talking about the convenience, taste and health of sweet potatoes, there’s no reason that they won’t become a year round staple on consumers’ plates,” Brakke said.
Still, grower-shippers know holidays are still important.
Large pack sizes and bags are popular around the traditional “sweet potato holidays.”
Nixa, Mo.-based Market Fresh Produce will be promoting 40-pound U.S. No 1 sweet potatoes in lidded cartons and Euro style display ready cartons for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, as well as 40-pound jumbo cartons.
Market Fresh Produce also offers 6.5-pound bags and 10-pound bags, said Shanan Cox, director of national accounts, Market Fresh Produce, LLC.
Promotions including special packaging for various seasons or causes are also popular.
Vardaman, Miss.-based SMP Southeast/Edmondson Farms has had success with its breast cancer awareness box, said Trey Boyette, sales.
“In October we pack in a pink box and proceeds from that go directly to Breast Cancer Research,” Boyette said.
The company has seen a lot of support for the special box.
“We have had nothing but support from all included, and over $80,000 in the past few years has been donated to research,” he said.