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Nash Produce looks to educate public about sweet potatoes

Millennials are demanding traceability in their foods and Nash Produce, located in Nashville, NC, has installed top equipment so if there’s a problem with any of its sweet potatoes, the company can take it down to the exact farm to find out what the problem was and what needs to be done to correct it.

“People need to pay attention to their food and ask questions,” said Tami Long, director of marketing and business development for Nash Produce.

That’s just one of the new initiatives that the company has done recently, and according to Long there’s a lot in the pipeline.

Mr-Yams-in-basketNash Produce is looking to introduce a new sweet potato product each year. The company expects to have a new one available by Memorial Day or the Fourth of July this year.“We’re always looking to have new farms join Nash Produce and we are exploring what additional farms we can add in,” Long said. “We are pretty much at capacity with our warehouses and storage units, and as we add on we will look to add on in those areas as well. We are always in growth mode.”

Long said while it considered changing its logo recently, leadership has decided to stay with what it has for the time being, as it shows who they are today. Still, she noted, the company is moving ahead.

“One of the things I am looking to do is introduce a new product each year using sweet potatoes, and we are working on one now that I hope to have available by Memorial Day, although it’s more likely going to be available for the Fourth of July,” Long said. “We need to get everybody on board and sell it to the retailers.”

One of the things that bugs Long is that while the state of North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes, those in the state eat the least amount of them.

“I think part of that reason is that people look at sweet potatoes as either baked or in a pie,” she said. “I’m trying to educate people that sweet potatoes are a great additive to take out unhealthy fats and a great sweetener for smoothies, and I recently even saw a brownie recipe. It can be used in a variety of ways and I want to educate people that they are not just a holiday food.”

Not only are sweet potatoes available all-year long, but Nash Produce ships 12 months a year. It finished shipping the 2016 harvest in October of 2017, so there’s plenty of product available.

“If you store a sweet potato correctly, it can last 18 months,” Long said. “Once we pull it out of storage, you have about 30 days. So, these are very hearty vegetables and superfoods. I don’t think we’re utilizing them correctly as consumers.”

Another initiative Long has deployed is speaking to fourth grade classes about sweet potatoes and trying to drum up interest among the younger children.

“I always start off by asking, ‘who has never had a sweet potato?’ and “who does not like sweet potatoes?’ and a lot of hands go up,” Long said. “At the end of my presentation, I have kids asking how do we make sweet potato ice cream and they are eager to try something new.”

Retailers, she added, consider sweet potatoes a staple item and she would like to see more displays aimed at the wow factor.

“I think people look at a sweet potato and think it’s going to take 45 minutes to bake but there are all kinds of little tricks one can do to cut down on the cook time,” Long said. “And there are other things to do to make it easier on the consumer. I think some chains are heading that way, but I don’t think they are there yet.”