Americans love their french fries, consuming an average of 16 pounds every year. They're a staple on many menus, from quick-service restaurants to steakhouses. At home, they're an oven-ready, kid-friendly comfort food.
In these diet-conscious times, however, it's inevitable that the long-time favorite will get a healthful competitor. The challenge is coming from sweet potato fries. Per-capita consumption now stands at a relatively small 4.2 pounds, but it's growing.
“People typically know that sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A and beta-carotene,” said Mike Smith, spokesman for ConAgra Lamb Weston Foods, one of the nation's largest processors of frozen sweet potato products. “There's been a lot of publicity in the media surrounding the health benefits of sweet potatoes, and consumers have noticed that.”
According to IRI, volume sales of frozen sweet potato fries and casseroles over the past year are up about 32% compared with white potato frozens, which are up 1.5%, he added.
Besides vitamins, sweet potatoes (along with pumpkin and other orange-colored squash) are high in fiber. Their popularity as fries has helped liberate them from their confined role as a cold-weather holiday food to become a year-round item. It doesn't hurt, either, that sweet potato fries possess a natural sweetness that even finicky children tend to love.