Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. markets jalapeño, anaheim, serrano and hungarian wax peppers grown in Georgia.
Harvest is expected to begin in early June, said Greg Cardamone, general manager of the vegetable division. In late April, the crop looked good and June production was expected to be strong, he said.
Getting the right mix
L&M offers chili peppers as part of its broad mix of vegetables, Cardamone said.
“Our customers that are ordering standard vegetables like to make as few picks as possible,” he said.
Offering chilies is a way to offer more to its customers and to get the most out of transportation dollars, Cardamone said. Most of the customers who buy chili peppers from L&M are in the southern part of the U.S., although there is good demand in New York City and Boston, and some demand in the Midwest.
In the past, Frontera carried cubanelles and other varieties of hot peppers, but found that those four work best in its product mix.
The easiest way to pack and price chilies is by the 1 1/9-bushel carton, but Frontera also packs half-bushels and 5-, 10- and 20-pound boxes.
Gonzalez said the company might eventually offer some display-ready packages, such as clamshells, but the idea was still in development.
Packaging preferences vary by geography. In Mexico and Texas, retailers have displays of bulk chilies, Gonzalez said, but some supermarkets in Florida display chilies in half-pound to 3/4-pound boxes with overwrap.
A lot of Frontera’s buyers are in markets with fairly low concentrations of consumers from cultures where chilies are traditionally eaten, Gonzalez said.
U.S. consumers are increasing their purchases of chili peppers, he said. With Southwestern cuisine and Tex-Mex spreading throughout the country through quick-serve restaurants such as Chipotle and Baja Fresh, chili peppers are almost mainstream. Media and high-profile chefs, such as Bobby Flay and Rick Bayless, also help promote the use of chili peppers.