North Carolina is expecting further growth in sweet potato exports this year, continuing the growth trend seen over recent years.
From 2009 to 2014, per capita sweet potato consumption grew 60 per cent in the US to 7.5lbs, led by North Carolina where about half of all domestic sweet potatoes are grown according to USDA data.
According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, the state has been investing in the development of export markets, particularly in Europe, where sweet potatoes are not a traditional part of the diet.
Sweet potato popularity has taken off with a 400 per cent increase in sales since 2009 and a 30 per cent increase in 2015 alone.
Already in 2016 the dollar value of shipments is tracking 30 per cent ahead of 2015’s record year, that exceeded US$100m for the first time.
The UK receives over half of all exports from North Carolina, followed by the Netherlands and Canada. Belgium and Germany have seen big bumps in recent years and new markets like Norway are taking off.
The North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission has partnered with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ International Trade Office to run education and promotion campaigns to introduce sweet potatoes to Europeans and show how to prepare and enjoy them.
Current NCSPC Executive Director Kelly McIver came from NDACS’ marketing division and managed those programmes: “Introducing sweet potatoes to Europe gave us an opportunity to build our story for this “exotic” vegetable. We executed an integrated campaign that reached the trade, media and consumers to make NC sweet potatoes part of their diet.”