Color is an ally for retailers who are looking to move peppers, marketers say.
“Large displays of low-priced peppers (have) been the ‘go-to’ vehicle of movement for most mainstream retailers,” said Richard Cowden, who is in national sales and business development with Fresno, Calif.-based Baloian Farms.
Pete Aiello, owner and general manager of Gilroy, Calif.-based Uesugi Farms, agreed.
“It’s a good eye-catching commodity because of its color,” he said. “You see it on end caps, on different stand-alone locations. You see them mixed in on the shelf in the refrigerated case. If you’re a produce department manager, no matter where you put them, they’re going to catch somebody’s eyes.”
Peppers’ natural attraction for consumers gives the product an edge over other items in a typical retail produce department, said Aaron Quon, executive greenhouse category director with Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.
“We were intrigued to see the recent Packer Fresh Trends reporting that bell peppers jumped from No. 8 to No. 5 among most frequently purchased vegetables last year,” Quon said.
“This is a promising sign, though not altogether too surprising, considering the uptick we see in high-quality greenhouse bells on the market year-round, between Mexican producers like Divemex (in Mexico), SunSelect (in the U.S.) and Canadian growers, who are doing a great job during the spring and summer months.”
It also was noteworthy that peppers were the No. 2 vegetable purchased for the first time in 2017, Quon said.
“So, we’re encouraged about the future of sweet bells as first-time purchasers have good experiences and become regular pepper consumers,” he said.
We were intrigued to see the recent Packer Fresh Trends reporting that bell peppers jumped from No. 8 to No. 5 among most frequently purchased vegetables last year.
With that in mind, Oppy offers bulk and bagged peppers in several configurations, giving shoppers some options, Quon said.
“As always, promoting peppers with ads and demos will drive sales,” he said. “We also believe that peppers hold their condition best at retail when they are not misted.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all retail merchandising approach for peppers, and that’s helpful, said Randy Bailey, manager of Oxford, N.C.-based Bailey Farms.
“It depends on many factors, and the most effective merchandising efforts comes from a collaboration between the supplier and retailer in the planning,” he said.
Cowden noted that, in addition to standard pricing promotions, his company is working with retailers “that are interested in additional volume in the pepper category utilizing the value-added alternatives, including bagged peppers and pepper trays.”
Social media and consumer recipe contests also have helped boost interest in pepper programs, Cowden said.
Mecca, Calif.-based Pasha Marketing LLC points to benefits of consistency in “definitive counts” that it can guarantee its customers, said Franz De Klotz, vice president of marketing.
“They can rely on a consistent amount in each carton,” De Klotz said. “It’s sold as a (1 1/9 bushel), and our extra-large, there are 55 peppers in a box. It has worked well for us because our retail partners are able to consistently guarantee the count. That translates to a consistent ring for them at the register.”
Seasonal events/themes also have a strong impact on retail sales, especially with the start of the barbecue season.
Retailers have an array of other strategies with which to move peppers, said Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer with Leamington, Ontario-based Pure Hothouse Foods Inc.
“To support merchandising efforts at retail, product trial/demo of colored sweet bell peppers has always had an impact on sales conversation,” Veillon said.
“Seasonal events/themes also have a strong impact on retail sales, especially with the start of the barbecue season.”
Beyond that, snacking-focused promotions are helpful, Veillon said.
“Providing healthy alternatives with different types of peppers also increases consumption,” he said. “The emergence of different types of peppers over the last five-plus years gives people options.”
Peppers often are displayed in bulk, but packs can be helpful to retailers, as well, said Ed Beckman, chief operating officer at La Grand, Calif.-based Live Oak Farms.
“Some markets are moving heavier to packaged product,” he said. “Needless to say, big-box chains go to four-, three- and two-packs.”