Stewart Precythe, president and CEO of Faison, N.C.-based Southern Produce Distributors goes old-school when asked about the best way to keep sweet potatoes moving off the shelves in retail stores.
“Price and visibility are what matter,” he said.
To that end, Southern Produce Distributors works to maximize that philosophy in stores that sell its product, said Brenda Oglesby, sales manager.
“We run ads and displays in main aisles where they’re easily accessible,” she said.
Keeping things basic works, said Norman Brown, sales director with the Raleigh, N.C.-based sweet potato business of Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms Marketing Group.
“It’s really pretty basic and applies to almost all areas in produce: Keep the displays full, clean, cull the poor-looking sweets and rotate the product,” he said.
It also helps to offer product use ideas, including cross-merchandising displays, he said.
“Sweet potatoes offer some great cross-promotional opportunities — the obvious marshmallows and pecans for a classic sweet potato casserole, but a ham steak and sweet potato on the grill is a great change of pace, or a simple cross promotion with butter and cinnamon spice will generate plus results,” Brown said.
Changing or moving displays sometimes creates additional sales opportunities, said George Wooten, president of Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., Chadbourn, N.C.
“You just don’t let it sit there. You’ve got to bump some life into it, maybe give us an end cap occasionally,” he said.
Wooten agreed with Brown’s cross-merchandising strategy.
“We do a tray-pack that has four potatoes that’s very consistent, and maybe cross-merchandising that next to pork chops or steaks in a grilling section is effective,” he said.
“It’s not just a summer thing. It’s a fall thing, too, and maybe that’s a good time to get a little different position in the store.”
Providing consumers with recipe ideas will expand usage opportunities, so including some of those new ideas in the ad circular will always helpful, Brown said.
The Benson-based North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, which conducts generic promotions, works to develop relationships with individual retailers to develop promotions that fit each retailer’s needs, said Sue Johnson-Langdon, executive director.
“It is no longer a one type fits all,” she said.
Sometimes, a value proposition is a deal-maker, said Jimmy Burch, co-owner of Burch Farms, Faison, N.C.
“Just a good even price every week that benefits all these mothers and wives who hear about it and know they’re going to be good for their children,” he said.
Promoting value can involve more than a good price, said Thomas Joyner, general manager of Nashville, N.C.-based Nash Produce Co.
“The best way to keep sweet potatoes moving at retail is to offer consumers options that are convenient for preparation, also touting the nutritional values of fresh produce, especially sweet potatoes,” he said.
Many shoppers are attracted to big displays of visually compelling product, said Steven Ceccarelli, owner of Farm Fresh Produce, Faison.
“Most consumers now buy with their eyes,” he said.
Price also helps, Ceccarelli said.
“Sweet potatoes are more of a staple product, and they think it’s better to keep pricing at more of a consistent range,” he said.