Sweet peppers, whether green or colored, remain a strong crop in Kern County, Calif.
In 2012, the last year for which figures are available, the county’s growers harvested from about 2,100 acres, up from 1,960 acres in 2011, according to the annual Kern County agricultural commissioner’s crop report.
Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International has seen demand for its elongated colored sweet peppers continue to grow and plans additional acreage in its three California production areas this season, said Natalie Erlendson, marketing manager.
Although water remains a concern, she said the company’s growers have enough to make it through the pepper season.
This spring, Sun World will offer field-grown red La Rouge Royal and yellow La Jaune Royal peppers from the Coachella Valley before transitioning production to Kern County in June. Harvest will continue in the southern San Joaquin Valley through August, when it will move to the Oxnard, Calif., area.
Retailers can help pump up sales by promoting the varieties’ sweet mild flavor and health benefits as well as their versatility in recipes ranging from fajitas to pastas and salads, Erlendson said.
Last year, Sun World introduced a 2-foot bin and a half bin program, which saw tremendous success from retailers as a vehicle for high-turn, high-volume promotions, she said. The company plans to offer it again this season.
For Arvin, Calif.-based Kern Ridge Growers, the window for its Kern County green bell peppers is short, running from the end of May through July. But if this season is like past ones, movement should be good, said Andrew Bianchi, sales manager.
“Coachella is finishing, and the north hasn’t started yet, so we have a pretty good couple of weeks,” he said.