Grower-shippers say they like to think bell peppers are a staple for consumers, but acknowledge they might not yet be on everyone’s shopping lists. That’s good news because it means there’s still room for growth.
Mike Aiton, marketing director for Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif., said the pepper category is an exciting one with steadily increasing sales. In the past, sweet red peppers were a minor item in the produce department, but now they’re being promoted on front pages of ads.
“Everywhere you look, you see colored peppers,” he said. “They’re on frozen pizza, in frozen meals, in salads, all over the place.”
Craig Laker, sales director for BC Hot House Foods Inc., Langley, British Columbia, said bell peppers just this year cracked the list of 100 top-selling produce items in one customers’ chain of retail supermarkets.
Kevin Batt, greenhouse category manager for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group credits retailers with doing a good job of promoting the category. Shoppers are learning that colored bells are not hot and that they are versatile ingredients.
“More people are willing to extend themselves to try different varieties of peppers,” Batt said.
Bell peppers have become important to the produce department, said Greg Cardamone, general manager of the vegetable division for L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C.
Demand for bell peppers dropped slightly this year because of high prices, and some customers carried smaller inventories, he said. But those are normal reactions to the market, and demand will likely recover as prices drop.
Batt said greenhouse growers can provide year-round consistent supplies of high quality peppers, allowing retailers to place ads with confidence and without worries about shortages from weather problems.
Oppenheimer markets greenhouse-grown bell peppers from SunSelect Produce Inc., Aldergrove, British Columbia, and from Divemex SA, Guadalajara, Mexico.
The key to increasing consumption of bell peppers might be to focus on getting people to eat more colored bells instead of green ones, Laker said.
“A green bell pepper is unripened,” he said. “It’s a little bitter. The colored bell peppers are much sweeter and they have more vitamin C, so they’re better for you.”
A half-cup serving of green bell pepper has 60% of the daily value of vitamin C, while a serving of red bell pepper has 240%.
Unfortunately, Laker said, some consumers still think colored bell peppers might be hot, not sweet.
Brian Beggs, president of BC Hot House, suggested retailers place more educational signs near colored bell peppers to inform consumers that they taste sweet. He also suggested doing demonstrations and samplings with colored bells.