Wooten said Burger King would likely be the first quick-service chain to offer the fries on a regular basis.
“Sweet potatoes haven’t impacted the restaurant circuit 100% yet, but demand is increasing,” he said.
“People are still picking them up and you are seeing the different concepts adding baked product to their menus. We will see more and more of that.”
The sweet potato industry’s ability to meet quick-service customer requirements helps send more product into the fast-food segment, said Jeff Scramlin, the Raleigh, N.C.-based director of business development for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“They need to get a uniform-sized sweet potato so every one of their customers receives the same sized potato on the plate,” Scramlin said.
“Every one of their chefs can just fill a tray and stick it in the oven and bake them all at the same time. The better capabilities of the packers and shippers being able to offer a unified pack has really helped drive that growth.”
Wada ships about 35% of its sweet potatoes to foodservice.
Consumer demand is driving sweet potato gains in restaurant menus, said Charlotte Vick, partner in Vick Family Farms, Wilson, N.C.
“There are not many restaurants you go into that are not offering them on the menu,” Vick said.
“From what a lot of the foodservice companies are telling me, the customer is asking for sweet potatoes. They’re being very creative in how the chefs are preparing them.”