Europeans are the lucky ones to have Scott Farms’ new sweet potato chip and line of adult beverages on the market – products the company exhibited at the recent Fruit Logistica show in Berlin. Jeff Thomas would like to have them available in North America one day. “It’s possible. We’re looking for opportunities to increase the fresh consumption side,” he said in terms of creating value added or processing of the company’s sweet potatoes. The line of spirits (which includes vodka, gin, moonshines and liquors) came about from a casual restaurant encounter between company president, Sonny Scott and Gary Smith over in Europe. A server asked them if vodka could be made from a sweet potato.
Scott Farms is at the very beginning of the growing process for new the season that will run from about mid April to the end of October or early November. “We’re one of the few grower-packer-shippers that have our own micro-propagation units. We work with a clean strain of plants every year.” They’re able to supply 12 months a year of nearly field quality crop potatoes from the 2.2 million bushel storage space. Even though Hurricane Matthew robbed them of some acreage last year, Thomas said they were fortunate that they’d already pulled about 60% of their crop out of the field before it hit. “We’re roughly in the same position we were for the 2015 crop year.” They currently have the staple Covington but also supply specialties like the Murasaki sweet potato, which has purple skin and white flesh.
Here in North America Thomas is working with Scotts Farms to continue building on the fresh market and its branded items like the 1.5lb steam-in bag. “We’re working with chefs, developing recipes off the fresh product,” he said. The way the potato cooks in the microwavable bag results in something similar to a roasted sweet potato. Even though he’s not a fan of pancakes, Thomas says the sweet potato pancake recipe chef Jason Smith created is delicious. “The pancakes are so good – they’re so moist and the sweet potato is so sweet that you don’t really have to use syrup on them.” Being able to use the vegetable in creative new ways is what’s made consumption of sweet potatoes double in the last 10 years, domestically and internationally.