“Our one and one-half-pound steamer bags of sweet potatoes, packed 12 to a case, are growing exponentially in demand,” George Wooten, president of Wayne E. Bailey in Chadbourn, NC, told The Produce News.
“We actually ran out of the product from the 2012 crop that was in storage, and then when the new crop came in we jumped right back on getting them out as quickly as possible,” he said.
The item’s popularity is in part because it’s a perfect family-size bag of sweet potatoes. Another reason is that it is available under the Green Giant Fresh label.
Display cases are also available under specific circumstances.
Because the bag is labeled, consumers now know how to contact the company. Wooten said his office is getting all kinds of responses, including “why hasn’t this been done sooner?” and “this is the greatest way ever to buy sweet potatoes.”
“We will have the item on display at our exhibition Booth No. 703, at the New York Produce Show, along with all of our convenience and value-added items,” Wooten added. “This show has provided a good return for our investment there. It’s introducing new customers to especially our value-added line, and they are learning how well the items are doing in other parts of the country.”
He admitted that the Southeast Produce Council Expo and Convention is the most important for Wayne E. Bailey because so many of its customers are in the Southeastern portion of the country.
“But we also know that people from Texas, as an example, attend the New York Produce Show because they want to see what stores in that area do differently,” Wooten said. “Then they take some of those ideas back to their stores and institute them. The same thing happens when a chain from the Northeast see the great benefits that stores in our most popular areas are gaining from having a full sweet potato section today, and not just a bulk pile. Ronnie Mercer, our northeast sales manager, and myself will be at the New York show to talk about the growing interest in these items everywhere in the country.”
Although sweet potatoes are a great holiday food, in the past decade or so, due to the media attention on the health benefits, and the use of sweet potatoes in cooking shows, cookbooks and in magazine recipes, they are now considered a full year-round staple in many American homes.
Wooten also pointed out that “Green Giant Fresh” sweet potatoes are the only fresh produce item that General Mills is including in its fund-raising box top program.
Schools and other institutions initiate the collection of the box tops, and General Mills pays back 10 cents for every box top that it receives back to the organizations.
“This program has been going on for many years, and the last number I heard was that so far General Mills has donated over 400 million dollars to schools and other organizations,” said Wooten.
He added that he is looking forward to a New York City experience, especially during the holiday season.
“Everyone loves being in New York City at this time of year,” he said. “It’s expensive, but dollar for dollar, it’s a much better value compared to national shows.
“Regional shows have a lot more validity today. They are more personal and intimate,” he continued.
“You have time to talk to customers and prospective customers without being rushed. There’s also more international traffic at the national shows, and that can create difficulties because of language barriers. At the regionals shows, everyone is on the same level.”