Sweet Corn: A Sign of Sunnier Days

Tray packs have been growing in consumer demand over the past 10 years. Consumers don’t want the mess of husking corn, and like to see the quality of the sweet corn before buying.

When the weather breaks, start promoting sweet corn.

Originally printed in the May 2023 issue of Produce Business.

Peak sweet corn season is a harbinger the dismal days of winter have given way, and it’s time to move social gatherings outside.

“Sweet corn is always a consumer favorite,” says J.D. Poole, co-owner and vice president of Scotlynn Sweet-Pac Growers, Belle Glade, FL. “Stores could drive sales and see lift in many other items related to corn if they would promote sweet corn often during spring months. Sweet corn has been known to have one of the largest halo effects on store sales, and many times chains are missing a valuable look to get consumers excited and into the spring mode.”

Tray packs have been growing in consumer demand over the past 10 years. Consumers don’t want the mess of husking corn, and like to see the quality of the sweet corn before buying.

Scotlynn Sweet-Pac is a fruit and vegetable grower-shipper with six locations across North America and a fleet of 450 trucks and drivers.

He expects promotable volumes from Belle Glade from April 10 through May, and says the Florida crop looks as good as it ever has, with a strong crop and high quality. “Georgia goes strong generally from June 5 through July 1,” he adds.

Retailers should begin promoting sweet corn when warmer weather makes outdoor eating inviting.
“Demand is dependent on the temperature,” says Dave Yeager, senior vice president of business development at Schmieding Produce Co., Springdale, AR.

Twin brothers Herbert and Hubert Schmieding started their produce business in the Springdale area in 1936 with a heavy emphasis on potatoes. The company they started has grown and diversified to regularly ship potatoes, carrots, watermelons, pumpkins, sweet corn and other vegetables.

“The time to put out large displays of sweet corn depends on where you are,” Yeager says. “Southern retailers probably have more demand than northern retailers and they can start any time in April.”

This year’s crop from the border region should be at least adequate. “It’s not a bumper crop, but it looks pretty good,” Yeager says.

It pays to anticipate backyard cooking season, rather than wait for peak grill in the summer.

“Start in April and put sweet corn on ad to get people to start thinking about grilling,” says Joel Hayes, secretary-treasurer of Twin Garden Sales, Harvard, IL. “Bring it out into end caps or near the front of the store.”

In season, large sweet corn displays are best moved to highly visible locations within the produce department.

Twin Garden Sales is a fourth-generation grower-shipper of Mirai sweet corn and fresh farm flowers.


Once the weather for backyard dining arrives, the time is ripe for large visible displays of bulk sweet corn.

The most popular sweet corn has both yellow and white kernels, many shippers agree.

“Bi-color is our No. 1 seller — all of our varieties are super-sweet and in high demand from our consumers when we are in season,” says Chad James, sales representative at Walter P. Rawl and Sons, Pelion, SC..

Bret Bergmann, president and general manager of Branch — a Family of Farms, South Bay, FL, agrees, saying, “Bi-color corn seems to have gained in popularity since the 1990s. It is still No. 1.”

Less than 10% of sweet corn is organic, according to Poole.

Corn’s role in grilling season suggests many of the fundamentals of sweet corn merchandising.

“Sweet corn is a fantastic item to cross-merchandise with,” says Poole. “It can be paired with salt, butter, charcoal and any type of meat you may put on a grill. Effective means to increase consumption and excitement is to offer larger multiples from time to time, or even ‘buy one get ones’ seem to drive sales.”

Most shippers advise merchandising this staple of social gatherings in relatively large quantities.

“Sweet corn is always best promoted in larger multiples, for example eight for so many dollars or 10 for so many dollars,” says Poole.

These large displays are best moved in season to highly visible locations within the produce department.

“The best in-store displays are large end caps full of fresh corn with bright green husks and slush ice to keep the product moist and cold,” says Poole. “Sweet corn should never get above 40 degrees F.
These bulk sweet corn displays lend to promotion.

“Promote bulk heavily and also offer trays,” suggests Bergmann. “Ideally, you want sweet corn in a cool endcap location. You want to move the corn fast enough to keep it fresh and have it current often.”


While the heart of sweet corn merchandising is eye-catching large displays of volume-priced bulk sweet corn during grilling season, a growing number of consumers prefer shucked corn in tray packs.

“Selling in bulk, for example eight for $10, or convenient shucked corn in tray packs would be a great way to sell this product,” says James. “The better deal is to buy in bulk (from a bin or table), but for convenience and less mess, tray pack is the way to go.”

More consumers want the security that comes with being able to see the corn already shucked in a clear tray pack.

“Over the last five years, tray pack has increased,” says Twin Garden Sales’ Hayes. “We ship a tremendous amount of tray pack.”

Retailers should begin promoting sweet corn when warmer weather makes outdoor eating inviting.

“At this time, loose or tray pack are the typical vehicles to market sweet corn,” agrees Poole. “Value-added, husked or tray pack corn is now above 30% of the volume sold.”

Some consumers were drawn to the perceived food safety advantages of the tray pack during COVID-19. “During the pandemic, packaged products increased in produce because packaged hasn’t been touched,” Hayes says.

While grilling season is peak corn time, shippers access this crop from many locations, so they are able to offer quality product virtually year-round.

“We go from Florida, to Georgia, the Midwest, and the East Coast,” says Hayes. “In the winter, the sweet corn will be the same as it is any other time of the year.”

The development of global sourcing has left some domestic sweet corn growers feeling squeezed. And corn growers in the Homestead, FL, growing region, between Miami and the Florida Keys, face tough competition from growers elsewhere in Florida and outside the country.

“My crop is in the winter in Homestead,” says John Alger, president and owner of Alger Farms, Homestead, FL. “My crop was fantastic.”

But, he adds, “I have been priced out of the market. The growers in the Beltway did not grow in the wintertime in the past. Their costs of production are much lower than mine. At a time when demand is not great, I can’t keep up. There is also competition from Mexico that hurts in Texas and Chicago.”

Per capita sweet corn consumption hovered around 9 pounds 15 years ago, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, but has since declined to around 4 pounds.

“The price to buy sweet corn has gone up,” says Hayes. “There isn’t the volume to drive a great bargain. When people go to the store, potatoes and onions are staples. Sometimes sweet corn is a luxury.”