Rising Demand Leads Sweet Tomatoes to Bestow Year-Round Status to Wayne E. Bailey North Carolina Spuds

Nov 05, 2015, 13:00 ET from Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.

CHADBOURN, N.C., Nov. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- No longer just an autumn and holiday favorite, Sweet Tomatoes has decided to make the nutritious North Carolina sweet potatoes it buys from a family farm founded by prominent sweet potato innovator Wayne E. Bailey a permanent menu item available every evening. The soup and salad specialist cites increased consumption of the root vegetable as more consumers understand the nutritional benefits of the delicious item.

Reinforcing its 38-year commitment in pioneering farm-to-table freshness, Sweet Tomatoes is buying some of its sweet potatoes from the fifth-generation family enterprise that planted roots near Chadbourn, NC.  Wayne's son, Elroy, took over the operations in 1970 upon his father's death, and now, George Wooten, Elroy's stepson, runs the business with his two sons, George III and Adam. 

"When our family started the business, we bought sweet potatoes from area farmers and were essentially a distributor.  But we later realized that we needed to have an assured supply, so we started farming ourselves," Wooten says.  "We are pleased to provide our top-quality sweet potatoes to Sweet Tomatoes restaurants and always appreciate partnering with leaders who have pioneered farm-to-table freshness."

What started out as an 80-acre farming operation has grown into a total of 4,600 acres in production during this growing season.  About half of that acreage is managed by Wooten and his sons and the remainder is farmed by contractors.  With what the family grows and through its contractors, along with some supply for other area farmers, Wayne E. Bailey anticipates shipping about 4 million 40-lb. cartons of sweet potatoes from the 2015 crop.

Increased demand for sweet potatoes has tracked information about the health benefits of the root vegetable, driving per capita consumption nearly 80% between 2000 and 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sweet potatoes are low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, while also a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Manganese. For complete nutritional information, click here.

"As our guests have become more aware of the nutritional value of sweet potatoes and have asked us to serve them more often, we're happy to now offer sweet potatoes every evening at all of our restaurants throughout Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina because of our relationship with the Wayne Bailey farm," said John Morberg, CEO of Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., parent company of Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation.

Growing the best tasting and texture sweet potato and delivering it fresh are hallmarks of the Wayne E. Bailey family business.  It starts with soil ideally suited for growing sweet potatoes.  North Carolina is the largest sweet potato producing state in the nation. The soil, coupled with climate, create favorable growing conditions.  While Wooten says that the methods used to grow sweet potatoes is basically unchanged since his grandfather first started the business about 80 years ago, storage technologies have increased fresh shelf life with ideal humidity and temperature control. 

Humidity and temperature control preserves sweet potato freshness year round, Wooten says.  Their operation includes about 1.5 million square feet of warehouse and storage.  "We keep our storage facilities at between 55 degrees and 85% humidity, which keeps the potatoes garden fresh," he notes.  "Proper washing and packing help ensure that our sweet potatoes retain their freshness."

"It is great to be doing business with George and the Wayne E. Bailey farm," Morberg says.  As a pioneer in farm-to-table freshness, we are always looking for local farmer partners who provide us with the highest quality products for our guests.  Now, with an assured supply of fresh sweet potatoes year-round, we can add more sweet potato recipes so our Sweet Tomatoes guests can create fun combinations with nutritious and delicious fresh sweet potatoes."

About Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.
Each day begins fresh at 124 company-owned Garden Fresh restaurants in 15 states.  More than 300 million guests since 1978 have helped us to be number one in fresh produce and salads, made-from-scratch soups, hot pastas, freshly baked breads and muffins, fresh fruit, desserts, and more.  Guests have the freedom to create their own wholesome meal in a one-of-a-kind dining experience in a friendly atmosphere and all at an everyday value.  The company is headquartered in San Diego, CA, and has two brand names:  Souplantation in Southern California, and Sweet Tomatoes elsewhere.  

About Wayne E. Bailey Produce Company, Inc.
The company, headquartered in Chadbourn, NC, began operations in 1935.  It is in its fourth generation of family ownership and manages nearly 4,600 acres of sweet potatoes production.  Wayne E. Bailey sells to retailers, wholesalers and institutional foodservice buyers in North America, as well as in Puerto Rico and a number of European countries. 

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SOURCE Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.