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Kern County Produce

Demand for more colors spurs increase in pepper acres

Specialty colored peppers, whether full-sized or their pint-sized cousins, have become a sweet item for grower-shippers, prompting some to increase acreage this season.

During the past several years, Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International LLC has enjoyed demand growth on its full-sized elongated sweet red and yellow peppers, marketed under the names Le Rouge Royale and Le Jaine Royale, respectively, said Natalie Erlendson, marketing manager.

This will be the third season that Sun World has offered retailers high-graphic bulk display bins on pallets that are similar to watermelon bins.

“Retailers put it in the front of their store, promote at an aggressive price, and they’re able to move significant volumes with this type of display,” she said. “They have been a successful promotional vehicle for a lot of our customers. They drop them on the floor on Friday, and by Sunday they’re empty.”

Sun World offers two formats — a full-size 2-foot high bin for larger format retailers and a half-size bin for smaller format stores or for retailers who want to split the displays within a store.

Production will transition in early June from the Coachella Valley to Kern County for about a six- to seven-week run, said Gene Coughlin, category director for overseas and domestic peppers. It will then move to California’s Central Coast.

In addition, Sun World markets sweet mini peppers in 1- and 2-pound high-graphics handled pouch bags, Erlendson said.

Sweet minis have become such a seller that the grower-shipper has increased its south San Joaquin Valley acreage twofold and its Coachella and Oxnard acreage by 50% this year, Coughlin said.

“I think it’s something that consumers are becoming more familiar with, and we’re seeing customer demand grow for this product,” Erlendson said. “It’s a unique item that can help grow the product category.”

Consumers’ quest for healthier snacks may be one factor driving demand, she said.

“Snacking is on the rise, and people are definitely looking for options other than potato chips or popcorn. Their sweet, mild flavor profile and how well they pair with dips like hummus or ranch make this is a great healthy snack option.”

Baloian Farms, Fresno, Calif., also will have red and yellow bells, sweet mini peppers and colored baby bells from Kern County this season, said Jay Angulo, salesman.

Production in the Arvin and Wasco areas helps bridge the gap between Coachella, Fresno County and the Westside.

Baloian Farms began growing and shipping sweet minis four to five years ago and has seen demand continue to increase, he said. The grower-shipper added colored sweet baby bells, marketed under the Bella Fina name, last year.

All of the peppers are marketed under the Pam Pak label, and most are packed in high-graphic handled bags.

“They’ve become almost a different category all by themselves,” Angulo said of the pint-sized colored sweet peppers. “People love that grab-and-go bag.”

In addition, Baloian Farms offers retailers high-graphics displays for the stand-up bags.

While the sweet minis lend themselves to snacking, the baby bells are more of a culinary item, such as for stuffing as an appetizer, Angulo said.

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