Mini sweet peppers used to be a specialty item. Now though, they are making a regular appearance in stores. Wilson Produce began growing the open-field mini bell peppers 12 years ago and were one of the first growers to enter the category.
"We started selling our mini sweet peppers to the club stores like Costco and Sam's Club," said Guillermo Martinez of Wilson Produce. "Then we went on to retail stores, eventually gaining distribution throughout the US and Canada. Our brand, Mighty Minis, is now one of the most recognized brands in this category and has proven to be a huge success."
One of the keys to establishing that success was to ensure a year-round supply. So that is what Wilson Produce worked on from the outset, setting up farms in various locations in Mexico to take advantage of the different climate zones.
"We grow the mini peppers in three locations in Mexico - Sinaloa, Sonora and Baja," Martinez said. "Our winter and spring production is centered in the central part of the country in Sinaloa and Sonora, before transitioning to Baja in June for summer, as temperatures are more mild there. Our year-round program is well established now and we are now only working to make the summer crop more robust."
According to Martinez, the category has grown tremendously over the years with a doubling of acreage in just the last few years. "We have experienced quite a substantial increase in volume, with acreage doubling in the past four years," Martinez noted. "This has been from our own growing operations as well as our partner growers."
Furthermore, the company is now offering an organic option for the mini peppers. Martinez said it was several years in the making and now the company is pleased to offer organic starting this year. "Three years ago, we began transitioning from conventional to organic, and we finally were certified this year," he said. "Our customer base has welcomed the move, and we recently increased the footprint of our organic mini peppers substantially in one of our retail partners."
Various packs available
When Wilson Produce began selling the mini sweet peppers at the club stores, they offered them in a 2lb pack. Eventually, they envisioned, they would require a smaller sized pack for retail, but this didn't really happen. They still offer the 2lb pack, along with a 1lb, and a smaller, snack sized 8oz pack for the organic mini peppers. They see good demand for all of these pack sizes, and it all depends on the customer and their purpose.
"The 2lb packs have a pretty strong presence in retail stores," Martinez explained. "It all depends on the clientele each particular store has. Some are looking for the convenience of a larger-sized family pack, or the 8oz snacking pack. Some enjoy grilling the mini peppers and they tend to also go for the larger packs to enjoy with friends and neighbors."
Currently, the mini sweet peppers are enjoying a steadily growing market, and with the introduction of organic into the mix, growers are confident of a strong future. The possibility of year-round programs in Mexico also continues to improve, which will only serve to further brighten the prospects for producers like Wilson Produce.
"As people look to eat healthier, we will continue to push our organic program to have a greater presence in stores," Martinez said. "There is a very large mix of climates in Mexico and agricultural land keeps expanding into new areas and micro-climates. These developments are allowing for better prospects for year-round production and allows us to increase supplies and make them available for our customers all year round."
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