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Boyette Bros. sees rise in organic sweet potatoes

Boyette Bros. Produce has been growing sweet potatoes since 1982, distributing nationally and exporting globally both conventional and certified organic sweet potatoes.

“While we do export sweet potatoes, domestic partnerships are developing as a result of regional conferences like Southern Expo and we’ve been strengthening relationships since the Boyette family first opened its packing facility,” said Erica Barajas, marketing director for the company. “We’re fortunate to have an operations team that has been here since the beginning and understands sweet potatoes and takes food safety initiatives very seriously.”

This past season, the sweet potato crop was significantly affected by the storms in the fall, which caused Boyette Bros. to leave a lot of acres unharvested.

Boyette-Brothers-organic “Sweet potatoes are a hand-harvested crop and demand quite the investment with rising labor costs and year-round storage,” Barajas said. “The heavy rainfall hurt us and a lot of other growers in North Carolina.”

There are many challenges that the company faces in harvesting sweet potatoes as opposed to crops that are mechanically harvested. 

“The heavy rain we got during Hurricane Florence undoubtedly affected yields, but one of the biggest challenges with sweet potatoes, is managing the high input costs and attention it takes to plant and hand harvest while labor costs continue to rise,” Barajas said. “This topic is very important in conveying the value of North Carolina sweet potatoes and how they have to be handled. There were a lot of acres left unharvested last fall. As the season progresses, I believe prices are getting back to where they should be, considering the low yields.”

The company did see success in introducing its Organic Sweet Supreme line last season and that’s a category that it expects to increase production in.

“Our growth initiatives are focused on increasing organic production,” Barajas said. “Early in the year, we see more promotions for healthy choices and savory recipes that consumers seem willing to try and this also creates a spike in organics for us at this time of year.”

In March, team members from Boyette Bros. will be heading to Orlando for SEPC’s Southern Exposure show, and look forward to the great networking events and educational sessions with industry insights.

“SEPC is a great show to meet with and network with companies in our region and also a chance to see what else is out there in terms of packaging, food-safety initiatives and technology that can help our operation in the future,” Barajas said. “We’re especially looking forward to the Southern Roots luncheon where we always see welcoming and familiar faces. We’re also interested in the educational sessions on marketing and food safety, particularly from the Food Marketing Institute and what research they have to share from the shoppers’ perspective.”

This information, she said, is key for branding, packaging ideas and better practices that keep the company in touch with consumer needs and market trends.