Domestic and imported chili pepper supplies are important to keeping up demand throughout the year, sources say.
Javier Gonzalez, vice president of category management, ethnics, tropicals and Texas-grown for Frontera Produce, Edinburg, Texas, said the two crops can work together to promote the product all year long.
“Summer is when domestic chili production really takes off,” he said. “Mexico has peppers all year-round but especially in the winter and spring.”
By combining peak production levels, peppers can be promoted throughout the year.
“End-cap displays help, and every retailer can feature jalapenos regularly with big displays,” he said
Other promotional techniques include social media.
“We are on Facebook aggressively and we use Twitter and Pinterest, so we’re constantly putting impressions and recipes ideas out there to start conversations,” Gonzalez said.
He said the cooking televison channels also help promote chili peppers, and sampling programs are always effective.
Duane Gillis of Desert Spring Produce, Hatch, N.M., said chili pepper promotions are important, but one of the most effective tools is simply roasting the peppers outside the store.
“The smell and flavor of the roasted chili is in the air, and that draws attention to it, so it’s a big seller,” Gillis said.
These roasting promotions, which help remove the tough skin and releases flavor, are popular at retail stores throughout the Southwest.
T.J. Runyan, owner of Mesilla Valley Produce, Hatch, N.M., agrees.
“The best way to promote chilies is through roasting events throughout the country. The main thing is the aroma,” Runyan said. “The smell attracts people in the parking lot to them.”
In-store signs are also important.
“We like to work with people and do a complete promotion. We want to make sure retailers are well-educated and comfortable with the product so they can sell it with confidence,” Runyan said.
Mesilla Valley provides point-of-sale materials and how-to information, banners, recipes and aprons for the people standing outside roasting chilies.
Of course, in New Mexico authenticity is key.
“I think the No. 1 thing about promoting chilies is that consumers want authentic New Mexico-grown chilies. Having an authentic green chili from the Hatch area is what people are after,” Runyon said.
Ag department promotion
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture also works to promote chili pepper consumption.
Katie Goetz, public information officer, said the department’s efforts focus largely on retail.
“We do our best to educate consumers directly, but our time is best spent educating the staff at the retailers across the country that carry New Mexico green chili during our annual green chili promotion, held every August and September,” she said.
The promotion is the largest and most successful domestic promotion, Goetz said.
“More than 10 years into the campaign, you can find New Mexico green chili in the 2,000-plus locations of some 30-35 retail chains across the country during those two months,” she said.
They show retailers how to roast the chili and add it to various dishes while also providing materials to promote those products.
“The store staff then let their creative juices flow and incorporate the chili into items across different departments: adding it to pasta salads in the deli section, breads in the bakery section and hamburger patties in the meats section, for instance,” Goetz said.
In addition, the department’s Marketing and Development Division works on spreading the use of New Mexico chilies to other parts of the U.S.
“Adding chili to almost any dish is nothing new to most New Mexicans, so our marketing efforts are focused elsewhere in the U.S. and, more recently, just beyond our own national borders,” Goetz said.