Organic sweet potato sales are growing tremendously in the United States. In North Carolina, Boyette Brothers Produce, which grows about 23 million pounds of sweet potatoes every year, nearly one percent of the total U.S. production, reports a 20 to 25 percent increase in sales over the past few years.
Robert Boyette, co-owner of Boyette Brothers, tells The Produce News he has increased organic sweet potato acreage to 350 this year.
Sweet potato demand had been in a decline until recent years, but Mike Duarte, of California’s D&S Farms, says that it has begun to rebound. According to Agricultural Marketing Research Center, sweet potato sales have increased nearly 80 percent between 2000 and 2014, reaching 7.5 pounds per capita in the United States.
"A lot of that's based on everything from Oprah Winfrey to cooking shows to the Food Networks, and the value of the sweet potato in a person's diet," Bob Weimer, a California sweet potato grower, told the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Boyette agrees, noting that this is why his farm decided to "ramp up" its sweet potato operation in 2011.
“It’s classified as a superfood," he says. "It’s not only good to you, it’s good for you. It needs to be in everybody’s diet. The awareness of sweet potatoes is growing every day.”
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, niacin, and beta carotene, and they are relatively low in calories, as compared to white potatoes.
U.S. farmers harvested more than 3.2 billion pounds of sweet potatoes last year, according to the USDA, with North Carolina accounting for 54 percent of the production and California for 20 percent.
Organic produce is one of the largest categories of organic food in the United States, making up close to 40 percent of the nation's $43 billion organic food market. About 15 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States are now organic, and the sector is growing twice as quickly as conventional produce, according to the Organic Trade Association.