With sweet potato demand up, growers and promoters of the vegetable are looking toward a strong year at retail.

Jimmy Burch, owner of Burch Farms, Faison, N.C., said retail demand has grown this year — a welcome sight after a couple of down market years.

Wayne Garber, partner in Garber Farms, Iota, La., agreed, and said demand and sales of sweet potatoes have increased at the retail level.

There are more processed options for sweet potatoes, and sweet potato products are experiencing increased popularity, and not just in foodservice, where sweet potatoes have thrived over the past decade.

Garber said he thought sweet potatoes’ popularity was a positive force in the economic evaluation of his company’s product.

There are several possibilities for sweet potatoes in retail, but it’s too early to tell what retailers might try promotion-wise.

At the retail level, Wada Farms Marketing Group, Idaho Falls, Idaho, has a 1½ pound microwaveable bag of sweet potatoes, said Shane Watt, director of sweet potatoes.

The package presents the sweet potato as an easy-to-fix, convenience item.

Garber Farms plans to carry 40-pound cartons, bulk display bins, 3-, 5- and 10-pound bags of microwavable sweet potatoes, and shrink-wrap potatoes. The varied packs are in demand at the retail and wholesale level.

Roy Hansen, sales manager for Dawson Farms, Delhi, La., said the company will continue to carry individually wrapped sweet potatoes.

Capitalizing on local trend

Local produce is becoming more popular in retail, too.

George Wooten, president and part owner of Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co. Chadbourn, N.C., said he thinks local produce options in retail are beneficial, and that grilling sweet potatoes is a great option for sweet potato consumers.

Watt sees the local produce segment increasing, too.

Larger bags are doing better than before. In previous years, consumers didn’t buy a large amount of sweet potatoes.

There’s an option for 3- to 5-pound bags, Wooten said. The company also continues to do 40, 20 and 10 packs, master cartons, 6-kilo boxes, and bulk bins, among its other packaging options.

Some cross-promotions are planned for the following year, too.

Watt said he has been working on cross-promotions with other labels. The company also plans on doing more promotions toward the holidays.