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Sweet potatoes are what’s for dinner at Nash Produce

Nash Produce is making it easier to feed the family at dinner time. The Nashville, NC-based sweet potato distributor is adding a family-size, microwaveable package of sweet potatoes to its convenience offerings, just in time for the Southeast Produce Council’s 2019 Southern Exposure show.

The new three- and four-count microwave trays were created to meet shopper demands for “quick, easy, and nutritious,” delivering a side dish for the whole family in less than 10 minutes, explained Tami Long, director of marketing and business development. “Once you have it cooked, you can do anything with it. Eat it baked. Mash it up. You can even freeze it and put it in smoothies.”

Packaging-Displayed Although convenience takes the spotlight at this year’s show, Nash Produce has a lot planned for sweet potatoes throughout the upcoming year, and a lot of it revolves around working with retailers to expand shoppers’ knowledge.

We want to help them educate consumers about fruits and vegetables that they may not know what to do with, said Long. Using purple and white sweet potatoes as an example, she added that there are more than 100 varieties of sweet potatoes, but most consumers only identify with the orange variety. White and purple sweet potatoes offer different flavors and textures, but they can be used in all the same recipes.

Retailers often sell potatoes in bulk from a bin on the floor and shoppers have no idea what to do with them. By working with retailers to share information about different kinds of sweet potatoes, Nash expects more people will be open to trying something new.

According to Long, the white and purple varieties that Nash sells are beginning to gain traction in the market. They offer them in a mesh bag with an attached recipe, which the company noted, “helps people feel like they can handle it.”

When retailers plan in-store events, they should think about what will get consumers through the door. Many stores have implemented cooking demonstrations that feature a specific recipe, but Long suggests workshops that teach shoppers how to use a product, or better yet, offer services to cut or prepare them while they shop.

“Recipe calls for a sweet potato to be diced? Let consumers drop them off at the deli counter to be cut it and collected at the end of their trip,” said Long. “Consumers want new products, but they want to know how to use them and they want it to be quick and easy. Provide that and they will keep coming back.”

Nash Produce does a lot of its own education. Recently they set out to expand the popularity of sweet potatoes beyond the holidays with new usage ideas and information about the health benefits. Long does presentations to students about how to incorporate the super food into any dish; and at the end of the presentation, at least one child will ask how to make sweet potato ice cream.

“Sweet potatoes are a super food, cheap, easy to prepare, longer shelf life, and available all year. The problem is that people just see them as baked, in a casserole, or as a pie,” she noted.

Another focus for 2019, Nash Produce implemented a traceability program that taps into its core values: delivering quality product that meets all of their customer’s needs. With the program in place, if a consumer gets a bad sweet potato, the company can trace it back to not just the field but the corner of the field that it came from. Then they can work backwards to identify other retailers that received potatoes from that area of the field preventing a widescale recall.

The program was designed to provide information to customers as needed, but it adds an extra guarantee that the company stands behind their sweet potatoes and service. “If something is not right, it will be corrected immediately,” explained Long.

The farmers behind Nash Produce take a lot of pride in their produce. One of the largest distributors in North Carolina, they ship across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the U.K. and always put the customer first. “Being consistent in our service and the quality of product ship enables our customers to eliminate one worry out of their day,” noted Long.