When it comes to sourcing sweet potatoes for Canadians, Brazil may not be the country that comes immediately to mind. However, one shipper is slowly finding increasing success in bringing in more unique varieties of the potato to the Canadian market.
Gideão Guilherme of Fresh Quality based in São Paulo, Brazil has been shipping Brazilian sweet potatoes to Canada for six years now after seeing an increasing interest from consumers in healthier products. Particularly vibrantly-colored products such as the three types of sweet potatoes it ships. “We have white skin with white flesh, red skin with cream-colored flesh and purple skin and purple flesh and we ship about a container a week,” says Guilherme. “Every year we slightly increase the volumes we ship.”
Fresh Quality ships year-round and is working on growing its smaller bit of market share in this niche. After all, sweet potatoes are grown throughout states such as North Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi in the U.S., Canada’s neighbor to the south.
Finding a niche
However, Fresh Quality seems to have carved out a unique audience for its colorful sweet potatoes. “It’s the varieties they like. In Toronto for example, the Asian community likes the varieties such as the purple flesh with purple skin,” says Guilherme. While Brazilian sweet potatoes are shipped to Toronto, from there they are further distributed throughout the country.
Throughout this month is when demand is highest for Brazilian sweet potatoes in Canada. “Demand from Canada is steady and has been going for a long time. And I do think demand is increasing too,” says Guilherme. In 2020, Brazil as a whole exported 212 tons of sweet potatoes for example. “And only our company packed 100 tons of sweet potatoes in 2021,” he adds.
Of course, more recently though it’s coming into a newer challenge that growers and shippers worldwide can relate to: logistics costs. “This year ocean freight is double the cost and sweet potatoes are a market that can struggle with pricing. That is the real challenge,” says Guilherme.