The pepper category grew slightly in 2012, thanks to a nearly 30% volume jump in sweet peppers outside the standard green and red bells, according to the latest numbers from the Nielsen Perishables Group, West Dundee, Ill.

“Growth is really coming from products like orange, yellow and other,” said Steve Lutz, executive vice president of the Nielsen Perishables Group.

The retail sales survey covered a 52-week period that ended Feb. 23.

The pepper category overall grew by about 3% in volume, generating just over $1 billion in sales.

Sweet green and red peppers dominated sales, at $365 million and $319 million, respectively, but sales volumes dropped by almost 4% in green and increased by only 0.2% in red.

The “other” sweet pepper category totaled $256 million in sales and grew by 29%, according to the survey. Sweet orange peppers totaled $65 million in sales and increased volume by 11%.

Sweet yellows garnered nearly $64 million in sales and showed a 6% increase in volume.

Jalapeño peppers totaled just under $49 million, with a 5% volume increase.

Retail promotions help sales

Promotions can lead to success, said Mike Aiton, marketing director for Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif.

“Peppers respond very well to promotion, so certainly advertising is going to be something consumers are going to notice, coming off usually higher prices,” he said.

Jerry Wagner, sales and marketing director for Nogales, Ariz.-based Farmer’s Best International LLC, said promotional efforts and sales success with peppers are directly linked.

“Promoting peppers is an excellent opportunity for retailers during our deal,” he said.

That multi-colored peppers have sold well comes as no surprise to Peter Quiring, president of Leamington, Ontario-based hothouse pepper grower-shipper Nature Fresh Farms.

“We’re seeing a lot of lift in the market with multiple colors in the same package,” Quiring said.

Nature Fresh does some custom packs for certain customers, which do well, he said.

“We do a six-pack where there’s an orange, a green, two yellow and two red for Wegmans (Food Markets Inc.), and they’ve got it on ad for the entire year and are moving a ton of stuff in that package,” he said.

Colored bells popular

Colored bells, along with packaged product, seem to be a trend at retail, said Darren Micelle, chief operating officer for Immokalee, Fla.-based Lipman.

“We have noticed a demand for value product in bagged format for field green and red peppers,” he said.

Colors are natural merchandising allies, said Aaron Quon, greenhouse and vegetable category director with Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

“When produce managers take advantage of the many colors and display all the varieties and pack styles on dry rack tables, peppers can become a high performing category within the vegetable segment,” he said.

Large tables of bulk multi-colored bell peppers can inspire many consumers to use them in appetizers, stir-fry dishes and salads, while bags of multi-colored peppers offer convenience, Quon said.

“We strongly recommend that retailers avoid misting peppers to reduce shrink,” he said.