“We are excited about the launch of another new product in our sweet potato line,” Shane Watt, vice president of production for Wada Farms Marketing Group, headquartered in Idaho Falls, ID, told The Produce News. “It is a jumbo-size shrink-wrapped 14- to 18-ounce microwavable sweet potato. We are offering it under our ‘Wada Farms’ label.”
The new item will be on hand at Wada Farms’ Booth 2458 at the annual Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit on Oct. 26-28 in Anaheim, CA. Mr. Watt explained that the item is a part of the company’s new joint agreement with Spring Acres Sales Co., a leading grower, packer and shipper located in Spring Hope, NC. The company has installed a new shrink-wrap machine to produce the “Wada Farms” jumbo-size sweet potato.
Wada Farms has been handling sweet potatoes for about six years, and Mr. Watt said the company is currently sourcing from California, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina each year.
“Our biggest movers are the Beauregard and the Covington variety of sweet potatoes,” said Mr. Watt. “We sell to the fresh market under both the ‘Dole’ and the ‘Wada Farms’ labels. In addition to bulk, we sell a ‘Dole’ three-pound bag, and a ‘Dole’ eight-ounce shrink-wrapped sweet potato. Under the ‘Wada Farms’ label, we offer bulk and a five-pound bag.”
He noted that the fully cured new crop will start shipping about the first week of October, and that the company’s supplies its customers with sweet potatoes on a year-round basis.
Wada Farms got its start in growing potatoes in Idaho in 1943, and today the company is a major grower, marketer and shipper of a wide range of potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes in numerous packaging options and sizes, including convenience items.
Mr. Watt said that he was in North Carolina in mid-September, where he had the opportunity to personally see the new crop.
“The quality looks really good this year,” he said. “We don’t have quite the yields of last year’s bumper crop, but there is an ample supply of No. 1 sizes. In general, the size of the potatoes is slightly smaller this year. There will definitely be enough sweet potatoes to get us through the coming year.”
Wada Farms, Mr. Watt noted, has increased its sweet potato business by about 20 percent every year since it started handling the item six years ago. Besides the most popular orange flesh varieties, it also handles red, white and purple varieties.
“Sweet potatoes are definitely on a strong uphill trend,” he said. “And we’ve seen incredible growth in the demand for bagged product. We believe there is a message in this: Consumers who used to buy a few sweet potatoes for a special dinner now want them in larger-size portions to keep in their kitchens as a staple item, similar to how they always bought other types of potatoes.”
Wada Farms distributes its sweet potatoes throughout the United States and into Canada.