Packed with nutrients and disease-preventing and immune-boosting benefits, sweet potatoes have been dubbed a ‘superfood’ in recent years. And with its versatility as both a savoury and sweet ingredient, it’s no wonder this humble root vegetable has emerged as one of the fastest growing fresh produce categories in the Australian market.
In the 12 months ending 14 May 2016, volume sales for the sweet potato category increased by a significant 21% versus the previous year – seven times faster than total vegetables at just 3%. Sweet potatoes’ growing popularity has been assisted by lower prices and more households buying. Close to seven in 10 Australian households purchased sweet potatoes in the past year – an increase of 436,000 additional households.
Existing sweet potato buyers also contributed to the boost in sales volume. The average household purchased 8 kilograms in the past year – up by 700 grams compared to the previous 12 months. These households also purchased more frequently and bought more per shopping occasion.
Sweet potatoes are most popular among smaller households – particularly senior couples, established couples and independent singles.
There is an opportunity to attract bigger, younger families – especially as many of these households have a strong focus on healthier eating using natural ingredients.
A few manufacturers have already jumped on the sweet potato bandwagon, using it as base product for innovation. Sweet potato crisps, oven chips, dips and soup are all commonplace on supermarket shelves.
And there are still opportunities for sweet potatoes to grow further. Over two in three (68%) households purchase both sweet potatoes and potatoes; while 26% are exclusive potato buyers. In-store promotional material and recipes at the shelf could help encourage these exclusive potato buyers to trial sweet potatoes and add it to their purchasing repertoire.
Persuading existing light and medium sweet potato buyers to purchase more is another avenue for growth. Reminding these consumers of the versatility and the various uses of sweet potato via preferred forms of media, including radio and free-to-air TV, information-based ads and celebrity endorsements is key to appealing to this group.