Effective Merchandising Helps Boost Sweet Potato Sales
BY DOUG OHLEMEIER
Sweet potatoes are becoming a bigger part of year-round root vegetable purchases.
Retailers have taken note of the product’s growth. “Retailers are capitalizing on their popularity, especially in the last few years,” says Jeff Axelberg, salesman with Vardaman, MS-based SMP Southeast/Edmondson Farms’ Fair Bluff, NC, office. “I see more excitement about them every year.”
Reminding shoppers of the different ways to prepare and enjoy sweet potatoes, including pairing with grilled steaks, burgers and French fries, helps encourage sales, says Steve Roberson, president of Roberson Produce, Hazlehurst, GA.
“Display items with sweet potatoes that complement and might encourage consumers to think of the different ways to prepare them,” says Roberson. “They aren’t just for Thanksgiving. ”
Kelly McIver, executive director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, based in Benson, NC, says demonstrations promote versatility. “There are so many ways to prepare sweet potatoes,” she says. “It is important for retailers to track the movement of consumer demand. Sweet potatoes keep seeing a boost, much of it due to health messaging and recipe options.”
Merchandising sweet potatoes with complementary items, including pecans, pie crust and sauces, helps boost sales across categories. “You’re increasing the upsell and cash register ring for these other items,” says Jeff Thomas, director of marketing at Lucama, NC-based Scott Farms, Inc.
“Our job is to help our retail partners increase the sales potential of the product. Not only our product, but we also want to highlight the other complementary products. The more we can do to help build the relationships between those products, the better we can enhance the mission of the sweet potato as well,” says Thomas.
To persuade shoppers to use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes with seafood boils, the Baton Rouge, LA-based Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission recommends displays at seafood counters. “As consumption and versatility continue to increase, we need to think of ways to cross promote them as healthy alternatives,” says Rene Simon, executive director.
Varying color can help increase sales, says Matt Garber, partner with Garber Farms, Iota, LA. Stores should offer different color options, such as purple skinned. Providing access to recipes as well as maintaining clean displays also benefits sales.
“Calling the sweet potato a ‘superfood’ or ‘the Orange Superfood’ would help sales,” notes Garber. “This helps keep excitement in the sweet potato category.”
Proper displays are vital to keep sales brisk. “Retailers need to keep sweet potatoes in a prominent place and not consider them only as a seasonal vegetable, because they’re definitely a year-round product,” asserts Sylvia Clark, who is a member of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council in Vardaman, MS.