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“Although sweet potato exports to Europe have picked up in the past decade, market penetration hasn’t been high,” Steven Ceccarelli, owner and operator of Farm Fresh Produce, headquartered in Faison, NC, told The Produce News on Sept. 24. “We hope to change that in the future by introducing new packaging and launching a new advertising campaign in 2013.”

The company farms sweet potatoes in both North Carolina and Mississippi.

Mr. Ceccarelli added that it’s necessary for Farm Fresh Produce to invest in growing the customer knowledge base in Europe.

“It’s a product with many health benefits, like vitamin A, beta carotene and a low fat content,” he said. “As an industry, we’ve made efforts to promote it, but it’s just a question of showing European consumers how they can incorporate sweet potatoes into their daily consumption.”

He added that Farm Fresh will introduce a new six-kilogram box that is highly visually appealing, adding that the campaign’s goal will be to reach consumers throughout Europe through the eye-catching packaging.

“The new packaging will join the lineup of boxes that come in sizes of 12, 15 and 18 kilograms,” said Mr. Ceccarelli.

Farm Fresh Produce will compete with growers in Israel who currently supply most of Europe’s sweet potatoes.

“Although some produce also comes from Egypt and Spain, Israeli growers have been dominant in Europe for quite some time,” he added. “But we believe that there is still room for American sweet potatoes, especially because we have the capability of offering quality product on a year-round basis.”

Mr. Ceccarelli noted that the American sweet potato history with Europe started when the United Kingdom. first started expressing interest in the item. Over time, market interest has grown across Europe.

He is optimistic about 2013.

“The coming season looks to bring good yields in both Mississippi and North Carolina,” he said. “And I am excited that we’re the first American sweet potato exporter to come out with a high-graphic six-kilogram box. We believe this will set us apart from our competition.”

Sweet potato harvesting began in Mississippi in early September and is expected to continue into December. North Carolina’s harvest began shortly after.

Farm Fresh Produce will be exhibiting at booth number 4543 at the annual Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit on Oct. 26-28 in Anaheim, CA. He will be joined there by his wife and partner, Bethany, and by Diana Ramirez, sales representative for the company.

“Although we’re based in North Carolina, we have worldwide sensibilities,” said Mr. Ceccarelli. “Our customers span the globe, and we can ship by land, sea or air to make sure produce arrives as fresh, crisp and tasty as possible.”