Jeff Thomas of Scott Farms Shares the State of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Crop
LUCAMA, NC - When I am checking out a new produce department in an unfamiliar retailer format or location, there are a few questions I like to ask myself as I assess the spread—as both a consumer and a trade news writer. One of those is, how does the retailer manage its sweet potato destination? More and more consumers are asking this themselves and luckily for us, companies like Scott Farms are building relationships to help respond to shoppers’ demands.
“All Scott Farms’ farmland is located in North Carolina within about a five county area. We harvest based on plant dates and stagger those throughout the region to account for variances in weather in those areas at any given time,” Jeff Thomas, Director of Marketing for Scott Farms shares with me. “If you have ever spent time in North Carolina, you can understand weather can vary greatly within the region. This gives us the ability to have more consistent harvests while accounting for things like the weather.
The company is well into the season now, with roughly 25 percent of the crop harvested. It appears, so far, to be very consistent in shaping and size, Jeff adds. Volumes are about average and the quality to this point has been excellent, despite the weather issues attempting to throw a wrench into production.
“Marketwise, we are seeing the demand now staying steady with previous years. We do expect an uptick in the demand, as usual, around the Thanksgiving holiday. We are also expecting the demand for first quarter 2020 to increase,” Jeff tells me. “In the previous couple of years, we have seen a noticeable increase from the end of January through April. I think we can attribute that to the versatility of the sweet potato. As consumers find new and exciting ways to enjoy the item, the demand seems to follow. Coupled with our convenience items like the steam-in-bag and microwavable products and the increased in foodservice uses, it is easier now than ever to enjoy them.”
As we move into fall, Scott Farms will be showcasing its traditional orange flesh variety, the Covington—the primary variety the company grows. Scott Farms also grows some specialty varieties like the Murasaki (purple skin/white flesh) and a true purple (purple skin/purple flesh) among others.
“We offer conventional and organic options for our customers both retail and foodservice. Each variety offers its own flavor and texture profile. The Murasaki, while not as sweet as the Covington, has an almost nutty flavor and drier texture. It is a great alternative to the traditional orange for those looking for a bit of variety,” Jeff says. “The purple is also a drier texture, but offers wonderful antioxidant properties. It also offers a beautiful plate presentation due to the purple color.”
Scott Farms is a pack-to-order operation. With its state-of-the-art facility, the company is able to pack anything that is in the bin and offers a range of count-packs for foodservice, as well as traditional retail packs. Scott Farms' added-value line of products—such as steam-in-bags, microwavable, 3 lb bags, and others—offer consistent brand packaging for ease of shopping at retail. The team ships both domestically and internationally for customer convenience.
“Our product speaks for itself, and our offerings are consistent with what our customers want and need. We are a leader in the industry for innovation and constantly looking for better ways to serve. But one of the biggest assets of Scott Farms is the transparency of our operation,” Jeff reflects. “We offer all our current and prospective customers the invitation to come visit our operation, watch as we pack, and ask questions. The best way to get to know us is to visit our 6th generation, family-owned, 14,000-plus-acre farm and packing facility. It will give an inside view of how everything runs from the harvest, storage, and curing to packing, and our steadfast food safety program.”
As we move toward the holiday push, sweet potatoes will become more in demand than ever! Keep checking back with AndNowUKnow for more deets on the sweets!