(March 12) Sweet-potato sales typically increase during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but not like this.

Sue Johnson-Langdon, executive director of the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission, Smithfield, said sales from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 were 49% higher than at the same time a year earlier. That surge coincided with a Weight Watchers Pick of the Season promotion sponsored by the U.S. Sweet Potato Council.

“That really did our industry good,” said George Wooten, owner of Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., Chadbourn, N.C., and owner of Missiana Produce, Bruce, Miss. “Sales in North Carolina for our Weight Watchers promotion in October, November and December were substantially higher. We feel like a lot of that is attributed to Weight Watchers.”

Charles Walker, executive secretary of the Columbia, S.C.-based potato council, said the promotion cost $75,000. During the three-month period, Weight Watchers distributed a million recipe cards to members during its meetings. It also featured sweet potato recipes on www.weightwatchers.com. Grower-shippers were able to use the Weight Watchers logo during the promotion.