OPN Connect Newsletter 359 · February 22, 2024

Bako Sweet Inspires Love for Sweet Potatoes with Heart Health Campaign

Bako Sweet by Country Sweet Produce is leading the sweet potato industry with an innovative new campaign inspiring shoppers to choose traditional and convenience sweet potato products for their heart-healthy perks.

Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious and flavorful and have garnered interest but have yet to reach their full potential in popularity as we believe they could and should.” said Susan Noritake, director of sales for Bako Sweet. “As a result, we’re trying to find creative ways to make sweet potatoes a year-round item that people associate with everyday use.” 

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Susan Noritake, Director of Sales, Bako Sweet

This month, Bako Sweet has created a dual-purpose advertising campaign capitalizing on sweet potatoes' connection to February’s heart-focused theme. February is both American Heart Month and National Sweet Potato Month. 

One of the biggest challenges for sweet potatoes lies in maintaining the item’s relevance beyond its role as a side dish for holiday feasts, Noritake said. “During Thanksgiving people will seek sweet potatoes out,” said Noritake. “Other times of year, everybody’s busy and trying to find things for their families to enjoy. We get stuck buying the same things.” 

“February sales act as a bridge after the holidays,” said Noritake, adding that a grilling campaign for summer sweet potatoes is on the horizon. With these initiatives, Noritake said Bako Sweet is taking a lead on creative ideas to sell shoppers on sweet potatoes. “There’s a convention about how sweet potatoes have been marketed. We’re looking for partners who want to lean in and try new and exciting ways to market sweet potatoes,” she said. “It’s an old category, but we’re coming up with new ideas.” 

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"We want February’s ties to heart health and National Sweet Potato Month to be a driver for the second largest sales period of the year for sweet potatoes,” Noritake said, describing an on-theme bright pink shipper display currently being deployed in supermarkets. 

"We’re looking for partners who want to lean in and try new and exciting ways to market sweet potatoes. It’s an old category, but we’re coming up with new ideas.” - Susan Noritake

Since 1944, Country Sweet Produce and its Bako Sweet brand have produced a wide variety of white, orange, purple, and red organic sweet potatoes. “This Southern California-based operation escaped much of the impacts from the early February atmospheric river and are on-pace to plant their next crop for a planned August harvest,” said Noritake. 

In addition to bulk product, Bako Sweet offers organic Single Sweets and other convenient value-add products to help shoppers see sweet potatoes as a convenient snack item. 

“As a brand we are leaning into convenience items,” said Noritake, listing value-added products like a single-serve sweet potato sold with a microwave-safe plastic wrapper or sweet potatoes in a microwavable steam bag. “It’s really important for retailers to find different ways to make sweet potatoes into an impulse buy."

Educating consumers about the health benefits of sweet potatoes is the next step in the evolving messaging around the product. 

Bako Sweet describes sweet potatoes as a “superfood” that is high in fiber and vitamin A. The brand carries the Heart Check Certification from the American Heart Association. “Sweet potatoes are known as a heart-healthy vegetable. Awakening people to those facts and fun ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into their diet is really satisfying,” said Noritake. 

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Bako Sweet's multi-dimensional campaign is already “seeing great response,” Noritake said. 

“We want to inspire customers and potential customers to be open about trying new things when it comes to the sweet potato category,” she said. “At the end of the day, things have to be easy and taste good.”

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