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Wayne E. Bailey presenting full line of sweet potatoes at PMA Foodservice Expo

Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., a major sweet potato producer, marketer and shipper in Chadburn, NC, markets its foodservice items under the “George Foods” label.

“We also use this brand for our convenience items, which are mostly retail products,” George Wooten, president of the company said.

“Ronnie Mercer, our sales representative, and I will be at the PMA Foodservice Expo at booth 51 to greet customers and prospective customers,” he continued. “We’ll have our full line of sized sweet potatoes-from fingerlings to jumbos.”

bailey-boothGeorge Wooten (right), president of Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., with his wife, Alice Wooten, at the firm’s exhibit booth at the National Restaurant Show 2013 in Chicago.Wooten explained that fingerling sweet potatoes are picking up steam with the foodservice sector. The company is doing considerably more business with the item than it did five years ago, and the capability restaurants have of featuring them on menus is great. Approximately 65 percent of Wayne E. Bailey’s business is with the foodservice sector.

“The cost factor affects this for certain levels of foodservice operators,” he noted. “Until a new item flows smoothly through the growing, harvesting, storing and packing processes, it simply costs more to produce. Once we can secure commitments on programs and plans, some of the costs would be reduced.”

The company ships its products nationwide, and it services all levels and ranges of foodservice operations. Wooten explained that its sweet potatoes are used in a wide range of ways by restaurants.

“Some make casseroles, some offer sweet potato fries or baked whole sweet potatoes,” he said. “The white potato has given up some of its ground to sweet potatoes in the foodservice side. The majority of sweet potatoes on the foodservice side are being used as fries, and most of these sales are in frozen product.”

He also said that people are just now beginning to realize how well sweet potatoes blend well with protein and other vegetables. He noted a crab and sweet potato casserole he recently enjoyed at a restaurant, adding, “I was amazed at how delicious it was.”