“They’re asking to do greens, reds and yellows. Then, there’s the trend to going heavy to one or the other after the troubles we went through. Where people saw the green pepper market was high priced they were utilizing the reds to supplement the green market at certain times. A month ago, there was a great value using reds instead of greens.”
A lot of retailers have gone back to basics to sell peppers, said Greg Cardamone, general manager of vegetables for L&M Cos., Raleigh, N.C.
“There’s not as much value-added packaging out there as there used to be, and they’re trying to drive price points to keep customers, give them more for them to spend,” he said.
Retailers also are having some success in offering more pepper varieties, said Mike Aiton, marketing director for Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif.
“I think one of the biggest trends is in expanding the SKU (stock-keeping unit) selection of peppers,” Aiton said.
“Peppers continue to be a growing category. We’re looking at a lot more variety and people using them in a wide variety of applications. The category is kind of booming. This is the third year in a row of significant growth in sales and production for us.”
Spring holidays can bring a bump in sales, and retailers can help move that along, said Damon Barkdull, salesman for Gilroy, Calif.-based Uesugi Farms Inc.
“Obviously, as far as chili peppers go, Cinco de Mayo is very big,” he said.
“Generally, with specialties, a lot of people still consider specialties. A lot of that is tied to Cinco de Mayo. You have your regular ethnicities that use chilies, but to get that extra bump we rely on Cinco de Mayo and other holidays to get volume moving.”
Seasonal spikes in volume can lead to consumer-friendly pricing, too, Barkdull said.
“It’s one of those things a retailer puts on ad about once a month, whether it’s red or green bells, especially in summer when prices are reasonable,” he said.
“Out of California, we typically get good weather and don’t suffer like guys out of the Southeast. We have steady supplies and good promotable prices.”
Langley, British Columbia-based BC Hot House Foods Inc. has numerous retail promotions planned this year, said Kevin Batt, sales director.
Among the plans are “greenhouse themed ads, full red/yellow/orange peppers displays, waterfall and off-shelf displays, (and) cross-promoting during seasonal ads (with) 2-pound pepper bags during case-lots sales and fall promotions,” he said.