What are the main talking points in peppers at the moment?
With some 10 weeks to go before the crops come out, the focus in the greenhouse is on the last fruit set. Everything is being done climatologically and from a labour point of view to allow these last fruits to be harvested fully coloured.
Overall volume sales of peppers grew by 8 per cent in the 52 weeks to 22 May (Kantar). Which pepper products have seen the biggest sales growth?
The most popular ‘pack’ is the triple pack or mixed pack, which accounts for a large percentage of total pepper sales in the UK. Any growth will come from this category. It is also the pack that is targeted most for promotions so I think the consumer gets a good deal here.
Why do you think there has been an overall increase in pepper consumption?
I think this works two-fold. An element of this growth, which we’ve seen year-on-year, is price-driven. There’s no doubt that consumers are picking up more peppers because of their low retail price. Also, new consumers are more likely to try peppers for the first time because of the price.
Secondly, I think people are using peppers more in salads and other dishes. Many Mediterranean, Mexican and Italian food styles use them as main ingredient.
Is there a growing market for speciality peppers? Where is the demand coming from?
I believe there is but I don’t believe in growing this market too quickly because the risks of flooding the market and the category being commoditised are too great. There is no secondary outlet other than the Class 1 retail channel, so any surplus production is basically worthless.
It needs careful consideration, innovative packaging and a good marketing strategy. Ultimately I do really believe in this product: the taste and the appearance. If done properly, it really has potential.
Has there been a spike in sales with the recent warm weather?
Yes, sales have been pretty good – not through the roof, but we’ve seen an uplift against budgeted levels.
To what extent was the Dutch pepper affected by hail storms earlier in the summer?
Out of the total area affected – some 150 hectares in total – ‘only’ 30-40ha of peppers were damaged. It was mainly cucumbers and, to a lesser extent, tomatoes that were impacted.
The storm damage has arguably been used to drive up pepper prices slightly but the overall impact on availability has been limited. In cucumbers, however, we’ve seen some high prices due to a lack of availability.
For a full analysis of the UK salad category, see the next issue of FPJ, out 23 September.