There’s a debate going on about how jalapenos should look and taste, according to Javier Gonzalez, vice president of category management, ethnics, tropicals and Texas-grown at Frontera Produce, Edinburg, Texas.
“Foodservice wants the heat, but on the retail side they want smooth jalapenos, and generally seed varieties that yield smooth jalapenos are milder,” Gonzalez said.
Another conflict can come from retail demands that don’t always add up.
“Retail customers are now saying they want smaller jalapenos with more heat,” he said.
Those types of peppers can be a challenge to deliver because the cracks and surface blemishes usually occur on hotter peppers, he said.
In general, Gonzalez says retail consumers can be divided into two categories.
“The general consumer might be turned off by scarring or growth cracks, but the Mexican consumer will seek those out because it provides the flavor they want,” he said.
In addition, chefs have specific needs depending on what flavors they are trying to highlight, so even targeting foodservice isn’t simple.
“I think foodservice use will continue to grow, and restaurants will continue to divide up into smaller and smaller niches,” he said.
“Restaurants are really investing a lot of time into publicizing Mexican-ingredient recipes like green salsa and tomatillos. The awareness of these categories has grown quite a bit,” Gonzalez said.
That means customers are starting to know exactly what they want, which can be a challenge.
“It can be a struggle to cater to both sides because we have to decide how much of each variety to plant,” Gonzalez said.
Still, he says Frontera is up for the balancing act.
“For us, it’s about 70% retail and 30% foodservice, so we are always trying to match up what our crop looks like to our customer base,” Gonzalez said.
Still, Gonzalez said he would rather consumers know what they want than the alternative, especially when it comes to selecting hot peppers.
“An educated consumer is the best consumer,” he said.