George Wooten, president of Wayne E. Bailey, headquartered in Chadbourn, NC, told The Produce News that the company will have a double presence at the annual Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Oct. 26-28 in Anaheim, CA.
“We are part of the Green Giant Fresh group, so we will have people at their booth, number 1238, as well as our Wayne E. Bailey booth, number 1432,” said Mr. Wooten. “Some of the products we provide to Green Giant Fresh have become more convenient in the recent past. Our initial focus was on bulk for them, but people weren’t buying them. Today, we’re doing a lot more three- and five-pound bags, and although they are doing very well and increasing in demand every year, we still don’t feel that we’ve reached our potential.”
Taking a cue from the “Green Giant” brand, Wayne E. Bailey is preparing to launch its new branding initiative under the “George Foods” label. The high-graphic packaging and labeling are designed to draw consumer attention. Mr. Wooten explained that the label the company has used for decades, “Playboy,” causes some confusion with customers today because of the magazine with the same name.
Sarah Wangler, owner of Sweet Marketing Success, is helping Wayne E. Bailey with its creative work on packaging, marketing and promotion design.
“Sarah helped us with our free-standing displays, which are very attractive and appealing,” said Mr. Wooten.
With the exception of bulk sweet potatoes, Wayne E. Bailey is moving its entire private label to “George Foods” brand. The label is a mock-up of Mr. Bailey’s father’s signature.
Wayne E. Bailey is a leading sweet potato producer-packer-shipper. Mr. Wooten said that in mid-September, information reached his office that North Carolina’s crop was down by about 7,000 acres from last year.
“This leads me to believe that more acreage was planted for the processing side,” he said. “Our acreage, however, has increased by about 10 percent this year.”
The processing side of sweet potatoes, Mr. Wooten noted, is growing by about 35 percent per year, which is why growers are putting more acreage into sweet potatoes for processing.
“Our fresh demand increase is due in part to our convenience packaging,” he said. “The biggest challenge is that market prices are soft, while production costs are higher than ever, with no sign of leveling off. Mr. Wooten said that at some point prices will have to rise.
He announced a couple of new staff employees, and even a new family member.
Mr. Wooten’s son, Adam Wooten, and his wife, Megan, are proud new parents of a five-month-old son, Sullivan Kissam Wooten. Megan previously worked as Mr. Wooten’s administrative assistant, but she will now stay at home to care for the new baby.
“We hired Yvonne Koontz to take her place,” said Mr. Wooten. “Yvonne joined us in July. She is also training as a sales representative.
“Another new addition to our team is Lisa Taylor, who is our logistics specialist,” he continued. “Lisa joined us in mid-August.”
Mr. Wooten explained that transportation is still a major challenge for the sweet potato industry, so every possible efficiency is important to a producer like Wayne E. Bailey. Ms. Taylor has been in the produce industry for over 20 years. She began working with C.H. Robinson and eventually started her own brokerage firm.
“We put some new software in place that will help Lisa bring us to peak performance in transportation and logistics,” said Mr. Wooten.
The company has updated its line at its Clinton, NC, facility because it has maxed out its packing abilities in Chadbourn. The update gives the company what Mr. Wooten said is the best sweet potato sizing capacity in the world.
“We pride ourselves in servicing our domestic customer base,” he said. “But Asian and European exports have also grown tremendously. We now have 21 sizing lanes to accommodate our growing customer base.”