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New ozone system and wide growing area give Nash Produce consistent supply of quality sweet potatoes

Nash Produce of Nashville, NC, is rolling into PMA Fresh Summit in New Orleans, Oct. 18-20, with new equipment and systems, a consistent focus on marketing and branding and a network of growers spread throughout a 125-mile radius farming more than 7,500 acres of sweet potatoes across eastern North Carolina.

The company will be exhibiting in Booth No. 4422. The location is a little out of the way, but Director of Marketing Laura Kornegay believes buyers who veer off the beaten path will be glad they did.

As an ever-growing body of research further cements sweet potatoes as a true super-food, Nash has gotten behind its premium product with packaging and labeling that represents the item’s growing importance in the produce department and on restaurant menus.

Nash-2This striking display at the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure trade show captures the modern-meets-traditional methods of Nash Produce. (Photo by Chip Carter)“It really is a super food — the best combination of a healthy and delicious product. It makes marketing such an enjoyable job for us,” Kornegay said. With even fast food restaurants getting into the craze, demand for sweet potatoes “has consistently been on the rise over the last several years. Sweet potato fries certainly play a big role in that. If you look at the frozen potato section in the grocery store now, you see all types of sweet potato products, including fries, tater tots, hash and chunks. But a baked sweet potato is a great trend for any restaurant as an additional side item. It provides an alternative to a baked potato — it’s a healthier choice, and provides a great profit margin as it is seen as a premium/specialty product.”

Nash recently installed an ozone system “to extend the shelf life of our sweet potatoes as well as eliminate residue from the product,” said Kornegay.

The system injects ozone, a natural molecule made of three oxygen atoms, into the wash water that each potato passes through. This inert process kills any mold spores and rhizopus fungi, which causes soft rot in potatoes. After the wash process, all packed-out potatoes are stored in an ozone atmosphere environment. Overseas shipments are transported in the protective ozone atmosphere to maintain freshness as well as prevent rot.

“The great benefits of using ozone is that it has been proven to eliminate the use of a post-harvest fungicide and it breaks down residue on potatoes from pesticides used during normal crop production,” Kornegay said. “It is the only known process to do this and it is even approved for organic production as well.”  

With a good crop coming along and at the forefront of what promises to be “a great, steady production year end,” the new storage capabilities make Nash an even-more-reliable provider, Kornegay said. “As the demand for sweet potatoes continues to increase, a steady supplier is an invaluable resource, and Nash Produce is always able to deliver. With the ability to store more than 2 million bushels of sweet potatoes in controlled-atmosphere storage, we can keep product for up to 18 months after harvest.”

Nash is a fixture on the trade show circuit, regularly exhibiting at events across North America.

“We are firm believers in the importance of being members of different produce councils and associations,” said Kornegay. “At the end of the day, we’re all working for the same goal — to have a good quality product, qualified vendors and to make a profit. When you bring together people from across the industry to learn and network with one another, it really helps to accomplish these goals and needs. We find trade shows the best place for us to see our current customers and to get in front of new ones. This is a fast-paced, busy industry that does not provide much opportunity to get everyone out of the office. Each show offers a different value proposition for us and we find the benefit in all of them. Being at these industry events is not optional from our marketing perspective.”