Planting is underway in both Ontario and North Carolina for the 2023 sweet potato crop. “It’s a good start and we’re feeling pretty optimistic about it. We’re increasing our acreage base slightly and also adding some new variety trials to the mix,” says Nick VanBerlo of Berlo’s Best.
VanBerlo says that while sweet potato demand has been steady throughout the year, it does historically dip slightly during the summer months.
This comes just as Berlo’s Best is finishing up its Ontario storage crop sweet potatoes and the transition is underway to its U.S. supplies. As for demand, while it has been steady throughout the year, demand does historically dip slightly during the summer months. “When we do get some promotional activity such as in-store ads, there is a little bit of a boost. In this inflationary environment, if the product is not on ad, it doesn’t move very well. Hopefully, demand will pick up again in the fall for the new crop local season,” says VanBerlo. In the near future to help with demand, the grower-shipper will also introduce new point-of-purchase marketing initiatives.
Pricing has been stagnant for the last three to five years and are relatively flat compared to the cost increases being faced on the farm level. “We are working with industry partners the best we can to manage this. We have become an industry leader, vertically integrated grower, packer, shipper, supplying the Canadian market 365 days per year so we’re continuously looking for ways to improve all aspects,” he says.
"We’re increasing our acreage base slightly and also adding some new variety trials to the mix,” says VanBerlo.
With those increased costs in mind, there’s also the additional challenge that the supply chain--from grower to retailer--is feeling the public displeasure on inflationary pricing on grocery goods. That’s particularly tough given that while the industry continues to develop--whether it’s incorporating new varietals or looking towards sustainable packaging--that investment is challenging to do given where the pricing and profitability are currently for growers and shippers. “We’re cautious about the next five to 10 years, but hopeful. We will be into our 3rd generation on the farm and we’re excited to see how that unfolds,” says VanBerlo.