In some ways, promoting peppers is a marketer’s dream.
Ask many grower-shipper-packers how they promote and market their products, and the answer is simple — the products sell themselves.
And, if not the products, then the areas where the products are grown.
“The cool thing about the Coachella Valley is that we’ve achieved a niche in the marketplace for quality and varieties,” said John Burton, sales manager for Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, Calif. “Everyone knows when it comes to the Coachella Valley, you’re going to get high quality peppers for a long time.”
In fact, the quality and quantity of peppers produced in the Coachella Valley and elsewhere, such as Northern California, Florida or Mexico, typically is so stable, promotions and pricing often are established weeks in advance of an arriving crop.
“We set our pricing structure two weeks in advance with our retail chains that’ll work for both of us,” Burton said. “We have to have a solid, competitive price that’ll be competitive with Florida and Nogales, which are our main competitors.
“We have guys calling in March asking when we’re going to start our green (bell) peppers. And there are great demands for reds.”
L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., is another company that contracts its pepper prices in advance.
“Bell peppers are pre-committed seasonally,” said T.J. Bauer, director of sales for L&M. “And then we’ll run weekly promotions based on whether we have hot weather. Greenhouse promotions are stable.”
L&M also does more traditional promotions, said Adam Lytch, grower development manager for eastern vegetables and melons.
“We try to work around traditional events, holidays like Easter, Memorial Day, Mother’s Day,” Lytch said. “Peak production times are also when we need to move a lot of volume.
“Promotion is mostly done by pricing. Occasionally, we’ll do (point-of-sale). But most times it’s just pricing.”
Lytch said his company also is working to capitalize on the recent trend toward locally grown produce.
“Local grown is very important to us,” he said. “We’re working with a lot of retailers and foodservice to be their local grown provider.”
Lytch said a good example was L&M’s programs for bell peppers in Kentucky and Tennessee.
“We’re using that volume for local grown promotions,” he said. “We’re working with state departments of agriculture, using their ongoing promotions. We’re also doing in-store with farmers actually in the stores showing their local grown products.”
Patsy Ross, vice president of marketing for Christopher Ranch LLC, Gilroy, Calif., said her company works closely with its existing customer base to meet promotional needs.
“Peppers are not going to hold very well,” Ross said. “So we stay on top of our volume. We work with distributors and wholesalers. We’ll go on-ad for a time. We’ll put a lid on price for a certain period of time. Most promotion is done on a buying level.”
It’s no secret that the current recessed economy has made promoting any product, including peppers, even more important than ever.
“Obviously, demand has been off the last several months now, so we have to promote even more, try even harder,” said Jeff Taylor, salesman for Prime Time International, Coachella. “It’s been a struggle on most items, I think.
“We’ve got to keep trying to promote product, get it out there in front of people. We’ll be giving wholesalers guidelines on pricing to keep things moving, keep a good price out there and give them something out there that we can promote.”