A Midland business, which is enjoying rapid growth on the back of surging demand for sweet potatoes, has made its first foray into the savoury snack market.
Scott Farms International is based in Evesham and imports sweet potatoes grown in North Carolina into the UK and Europe.
The business is the UK arm operating under licence from a US family firm which has been growing sweet potatoes for four generations.
It was born in 2006 when serial entrepreneur Stan Smith met with North Carolina’s Scott family and initially imported the raw product for UK and European distribution.
But its latest venture has seen a three-way Midland tie-up with the launch of sweet potato vegetable crisps in a bid to cash-in on the UK’s huge snack market.
Last year the Worcestershire business imported almost 20,000 tons of sweet potatoes from the US and in the UK it now supplies M&S, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury.
Its new sweet potato chips product was launched at the recent Fruit Logistica event held in Berlin and has seen Scott Farms team up with Uttoxeter snack firm Glennans and Evesham packaging company Amcor.
Glennans, which is part of Tyrrells, is the biggest vegetable crisp maker in Europe and the Scott Farms joint venture is the first sweet potato only offering in the snack market.
The UK snack market is the largest in Europe and by the end of this year it is estimated it will be worth £3 billion annually.
People in the UK spend an average of £80 each on snacks each year, way ahead of all other European countries. The next closest country is Germany where people spend £25.
Mr Smith said: “The idea came from the fact I am always looking at the market to sell and innovate in. I am in the business of growing and selling sweet potatoes and am always looking for a new way to sell them.
“If you look at the figures in the snack market and growth there is a great opportunity and I think there is an opportunity for innovation within the market when you look at some of the things that have gained market share.”
Although Scott Farms’ new snack will be initially launched only in the UK Mr Smith said the infrastructure was in place globally to reach a wider market if there is demand.
However, Scott Farms, whose annual turnover is around £11 million, is unlikely to be deviating from its core business – the import and distribution of sweet potatoes as opposed to a processed product.
It has seen significant growth in all export markets in the last year but it is Europe, which accounts for about 45 per cent of turnover, that has seen the biggest spike.
Exports to France have grown by 60 per cent with increases of 45 per cent in Germany, 40 per cent in the Netherlands, 35 per cent in Spain and five per cent in Scandinavia.