George Wooten Discusses Wayne E. Bailey's Weaklings and Unappealings Program
- by Robert Schaulis
CHADBOURN, NC - With its latest offerings, Wayne E. Bailey Produce Company is targeting a much talked-about market while taking aim at food waste.
“There seems to be a buzz in the produce industry about product that doesn’t make the grade but still has great food value,” says George Wooten, President of Wayne E. Bailey, as he describes the company’s latest products humorously named “Weaklings” and “Unappealings,” featured at this year’s Viva Fresh Produce Expo.
With its new Weaklings and Unappealings programs, the sweet potato provider is looking to help retailers and foodservice capitalize on the burgeoning “ugly” produce trend and bring cosmetically imperfect—but nonetheless delicious—produce to the company’s signature category: the sweet potato.
“We’ve been on a quest for the last few months to see if there’s really interest out there,” George tells me. “Our Weaklings are a product that comes out of one of our specialty packs that doesn’t quite make the grade, but they are still phenomenally good product. And our Unappealings are product that may be misshapen, that may have a little blemish or imperfection.”
Weaklings and Unappealings may not make the premium grade, but they still have tremendous value in terms of taste and nutrition, and being able reclaim this product and provide inexpensive sweet potatoes could add significant value to the segment.
And, while George notes that these latest offerings may not turn the world upside down, imperfect produce could have positive effects on the category beyond sustainability.
“The more of this imperfect produce that we can sell as an industry, the more we can keep the cost of product down,” George explains, noting that increasing the portion of marketable sweet potatoes may make it easier for grower/packer/shippers like Wayne E. Bailey to more easily cover costs and keep prices competitive. “In our complete sweet potato crop, from start to finish on production, you only get about 45 to 55 percent premium number ones. So, we as shippers have to try and create markets for the rest of that product.”
And growth beyond the premium number one spec is not unprecedented; jumbo sweet potatoes and other process-grade spuds, for example, fall too far afield of requirements to be considered premium but have found a market—as have innovative products like Wayne E. Bailey’s Petitelings, small, high-end spuds akin to a fingerling potato.
George tells me, Wayne E. Bailey is also willing to work with retailers and foodservice professionals to tailor these new offerings to buyers’ needs.
“We are very flexible,” George says. “Over the years, Wayne E. Bailey has been one of the most flexible companies in the United States. If the customer wants potatoes in bulk, bagged, in clamshells, we will work with them. We want to be a partner and have an open-dialogue with our customers.”
Like Wayne E. Bailey’s other products, Weaklings and Unappealings are available nationwide.