Last week, I posted our 2016 review and was happy to report on the progress we made in the past year. You can find that report here. In 2016, we were able to implement positive changes that helped us achieve our goals of engagement, unification, and expansion. We will continue to further these goals in 2017, as well as tackle the following initiatives; expand our sustainability practices, grow our domestic retail business, and introduce new retail items.
We pride ourselves in being at the forefront of sustainability in the farming industry. With the implementation of our 3 processing plants; Natural Blends Vegetable Dehydration, Yamco, and Covington Spirits we were able to save 50 million+ pounds of sweet potatoes from ending up in the landfill. We also follow the agricultural standards set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network, which include resource conservation, use of recycled packaging materials, as well as sustainable land management and erosion practices. While we will continue these practices in 2017, we are taking a step forward to decrease our carbon footprint by using renewable energy at one or more of our processing plants. We are pleased to announce that we have partnered with a company that plans on building a steam plant that will generate electricity through the use of agricultural waste. Not only will this generate clean renewable energy, but it will also help reduce the amount of agricultural waste in Eastern North Carolina.
In the past decade, exports of North Carolina sweet potatoes have surged over 300%, while domestic demand has seen steady growth year after year. As a result of this overseas growth, many sweet potato producers, including us, have shifted some of our focus over to the high growth markets. In 2017, we are making a concerted effort to grow our domestic retail business. Our focus on engagement in 2016 has put us in a great position to expand our relationships to new domestic retail customers. We are off to a great start in 2017 as we already have secured some new retail business. Soon you will see our Ham’s Yams in more stores near you!
Consumers are not only demanding fresh sweet potatoes, they are also looking for new innovative ways to consume their favorite tuber. As a result, one of our goals is to introduce new retail items using sweet potatoes as an ingredient. To accomplish this, we will seek to develop partnerships with other companies who plan on developing new healthy consumer products. One such partnership and product is already making its way into grocery stores in the U.S. This past year, we partnered with Healthier Way Foods and supplied them with the sweet potato flour for their pancake mix. You can find more information on the product here. As the year progresses, I will update you on the progress of any new products and/or partnerships.
We are only a week into 2017 and we are already making significant headway in achieving our 2017 goals of expanding our sustainability practices, growing our domestic retail business, and introducing new retail items. A year from now, I plan on writing a successful 2017 review about how we achieved these three goals.
Peace, Love, and Sweet Potatoes