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Bland Farms Vidalia Brands sweet potato deal matures

Article by Produce News

Bland Farms LLC of Glennville, GA is known far and wide for its sweet onions — especially its annual abundant Vidalia crop — but over the last two years, Bland has sweetened the deal even further with the addition of another traditional Georgia staple, sweet potatoes.

“We started digging sweet potatoes in Georgia in mid-August and they’re turning out real good,” said president and owner Delbert Bland. “We started in Florida before that, we are running on schedule and they all look very good. We started shipping the first part of September with fresh sweet potatoes, which is a big deal, because all that’s usually available then is stuff coming out of storage and it’s been there almost a year.”

What began as an experiment two years ago evolved into a full-fledged program in 2015 and “we’re probably going to double our acreage by next year,” Bland said. “Our sweet potato program is coming strong. Some foods are fads, some are staples. Sweet potatoes have always been popular, but with all the good news about their health benefits, they’ve gone beyond a fad. We’re gonna be sweet, whether it’s onions or potatoes. I believe we can co-market that way. There’s no reason why you can’t have a bag of onions and a bag of sweet potatoes set beside each other in the store.”

Bland saw an opportunity to co-market sweet onions and sweet potatoes together where possible and the results have been impressive.

“They go together perfectly,” Bland said. “They can ship on the same truck. Retailers can turn product over more quickly with say, two shipments of sweet potatoes and sweet onions together a week than they can getting one shipment of onions and one shipment of sweet potatoes a week.”

Bland markets its fresh sweet potatoes under the Vidalia Brands label (the subsidiary division that also carries the company’s line of dressings, dips, condiments, snacks and frozen items) to help consumers make a connection between Vidalia-grown sweet potatoes and their famous cousin.

Bland also created an ingenious dual bin that helps retailers maximize sales of sweet potatoes and sweet onions. The divided bin displays both products with messaging promoting both, along with other point-of-sale support.

It’s all part of a steady stream of progress at the family company, which now features a third generation at the executive level. In January, Troy Bland, formerly director of operations, assumed the newly created position of chief operating officer. The company also named a new chief executive officer, Jeff Bailey, chief legal counsel and director of administration since 2012.