The state’s Sweetpotato Commission has initiated research to understand opportunities in its key European export markets

The North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission (NCSPC) has announced that it has conducted a large-scale research campaign across its key European markets.

North Carolina sweet potatoes harvest

The research, conducted by TRKR, highlighted why consumers bought sweet potatoes, how they were used and any barriers they may face at point of purchase.

According to NCSPC, the information collected would provide insights into key drivers for purchase and consumer attitudes, enabling it to tailor its approach for each market.

North Carolina remains the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the US, producing over 60 per cent of the total volume grown in the country.

NCSPC initiated the research following its 2023 harvest to understand opportunities in its key EU export markets, with the Commission noting that it would use the data to confirm consumer usage and reinforce demand in each country.

Key takeaways

One of the key takeaways from the research showed that 55 per cent of sweet potato shoppers in the UK chose it as a healthier alternative to white potatoes.

Despite effects from the cost-of-living crisis, it has not negatively impacted shopping behaviour, with 24 per cent across the UK buying more sweet potatoes compared to previous years.

Sweet potato sales in the UK are worth £71m and growing at 8.6 per cent, €79m in France and €63m in Germany, the research found.

The percentage of households buying sweet potatoes also varies from 42 per cent in the UK to 34 per cent in France and 22 per cent in Germany.

NCSPC noted that there was “significant headroom” to grow shopper numbers across all three of those key European markets, and the insight would help exporters position produce accordingly to meet the needs of importers within key areas of Europe.

Essential research

“In-depth research into our industry is essential to help stabilise and grow sales for our producers and farmers,” said NCSPC executive director, Michelle Grainger, “to deliver the highest quality sweet potatoes in the market, including the highly prized Covington variety, which was developed in North Carolina by the research department at NC State University.

”NCSPC will also be working closely with buyers to establish promotional programmes that support strong sales and pricing initiatives that drive consumer value and preserve profitability for producers and buyers.”

The Commission, along with the state’s sweet potato growers and shippers, are continuing to support education and consumption efforts throughout Europe and in global markets.

Part of this includes educating consumers on the value of sweet potatoes as a nutritionally dense root vegetable with ”excellent shelf-life, and culinary versatility”.

”The North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission is committed to supporting its growers and increasing sweet potato consumption through education, promotional activities, research, and honourable horticultural practices among its producers, helping to preserve this much-loved and established industry within North Carolina,” it added.