Sweet Potato Demand to Rise as Holidays Approach
CALIFORNIA & NORTH CAROLINA - As we quickly approach November and Thanksgiving ads, California’s Country Sweet Produce and Quail H. Farms report on track harvests for the season.
“Everything in our ballpark is right where it needs to be, the last crop finished right on time with the new crop on track, so there were no gaps in supply,” shares Country Sweet Produce Commodity Sales Manager, Cody Rose. Cody tells me that the weather for California has been fantastic, and that quality looks great. Currently, volume is on the rise with the state in the thick of harvest, looking to move into the storage phase of harvest in the next couple of weeks.
When I ask about demand, Cody explains, “As soon as the weather starts to cool down sweet potato consumption tends to go up. That being said, the category has changed; health benefits and promotions have boosted demand year-round.”
Some of the factors Cody names that have boosted demand are different packaging to highlight sweet potatoes on the shelf, individual microwavable sweet potato offerings, one-and-a-half pound and family-sized packs, and other methods that have taken down prep times to make the category more convenient for on-the-go consumers.
Larelle Miller of Quail H. Farms shares, “We are definitely seeing an increase in demand, just in the last several weeks we’ve had a significant increase in movement.” She added that everything is looking good in terms of quality to meet that demand. “We felt pretty good about the market going into the month of October, and currently we are at a level retailers can promote when switching to their fall set.”
Recently, the North Carolina Sweet Potato Council sent out an update after experiencing Hurricane Matthew, reporting that growers and shippers remained optimistic as everything was assessed. One reason for optimism was that the state’s famous Covington sweet potato has shown strong resilience to excessive water, including 2015’s Hurricane Joaquin.
As of October 12, NCSPC estimated that about half of the crop had been harvested and some harvesting has resumed. Joshua Wright of Ham Produce confirmed that the company was back in motion 48 hours after the storms, with as much as 65% already harvested.
“Any fields that did have water, which was minimal at best, didn’t have any sweet potatoes,” Josh shares, explaining that the company started harvesting at lower ground levels first and reporting that everything is fine.
In terms of awareness and increased consumption of sweet potatoes, Larelle thanks the councils for getting the message out there, and believes it’s time to get the retailers involved.
"The U.S., CA, and NC sweet potato council's have done a great job of getting the message of versatility out through their websites and social media, as well as blogs, and health messages. It's not just sweet potato pie anymore,” she laughs, emphasizing that education and awareness are important. “As a shipper we don’t always have the eyes or ears of the consumer, but the retailers do.”
AndNowUKnow will continue to report on this and other current markets throughout the remainder of 2016 and beyond.