“In the past, it was considered a Southwest item, but we have chains in the Midwest using them,” Coombs said.
Coombs said growth had been noticeable in Northeast markets.
“There’s more and more people that know how to prepare them and use them in their cooking,” Coombs said.
“It’s an exciting new item for us and familiar to the general populace of the country now.”
New Mexico has been enduring drought problems for the past couple of years, but the dry conditions don’t necessarily adversely affect chili pepper production, said Stephanie Walker, a researcher and vegetable specialist with New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
“It’s very dry and that does help us because it greatly reduces the number of foliar diseases we get,” she said of the dry conditions and high elevations in the New Mexico pepper production areas.
“After the monsoon season starts, we occasionally get issues with powdery mildew, but oftentimes that’s so late in the season it doesn’t hurt us at all.”
The chili pepper season typically hits peak production from early August until late September “or the first freeze,” Walker said.
The ongoing drought hasn’t posed any serious problems, said Ogaz, who said his company’s annual production is in the 10 million-pound range.
“I think we’re still fine,” he said. “Dry weather sometimes is very good for us. Actually, it’s not the lack of water that’s going to kill us, it’s the increase in salt. That’s the key.”