Sweet potato is an important staple food crop in East Africa, but under local marketing conditions it has a shelf life of generally no longer than 2 weeks. As a result, the potential for marketing over longer distances is limited. The role of changes in sensory properties and weight loss as limiting factors for shelf-life were investigated. The important sensory attributes of five sweet potato cultivars were determined in discussion sessions with four taste panels and were: floury, sweet, chestnutty, grainy, smooth, soft, fibrous, discoloration, and moist. The sensory profiles of the five cultivars (KSP20, Kemb10, Yanshu 1, Pumpkin, and SPK004) differed significantly (P < 0.001). However, after 4 and 8 weeks under simulated tropical storage conditions (26 °C, 80% to 90% RH) no significant changes in the attributes were detected in most cases (P > 0.05). Changes in sensory properties were therefore not considered to limit shelf life. Shelf life experiments in Tanzania under simulated marketing conditions (26 + 5 °C, 50% to 60% RH) with 29 local cultivars revealed that roots with high rates of weight loss also rot rapidly. It was found that weight losses (primarily due to water loss) were high and varied significantly among cultivars (12% to 45% loss in 21 days). Further studies will investigate the structure and strength of the periderm as the main barrier to water loss to facilitate future cultivar selection.