(June 26) New packing facilities and a bigger presence in Florida’s produce deal should help boost production for an East Coast hot pepper grower-shipper.

Bailey Farms Inc. is building a $2.6 million packing shed in its Oxford, N.C., headquarters and has constructed an Immokalee, Fla., packing shed.

The company also has moved to recyclable packaging, has launched a new pepper promotion and has rolled out a line of bottled hot sauces targeted at boosting fresh hot pepper consumption.

This year, the grower-shipper plans to ship 1.8 million cases of 3-, 5-, 8-, 10-, 15-, 20-, 30- and 40-pound packs compared to last year’s 1.4 million cases, said Randy Bailey, president.

Bailey Farms, which ships from 91 of its own acres in North Carolina and 500 contracted acres in Florida and North Carolina, in early May began building a 30,000 square-foot packing shed four miles north of its Oxford operation.

The company, founded in 1990, decided to build a new facility after it found it couldn’t expand further at its current location, Bailey said.

The new packinghouse, which will double Bailey Farms’ storage and packing capabilities, will have a new racking system and ship product from eight docks compared to the company’s current two docks. Bailey Farms expects to finish construction by the end of September.

In late April, the year-round pepper shipper completed construction of a 20,000-square foot packinghouse located five miles south of Immokalee.

Bailey Farms co-owns the $600,000 facility along with Immokalee-based Farmer Mikes LLC. The Florida operation is called Chile Pack LLC.

Previously, Bailey Farms had been field packing peppers sourced from its contracted Florida growers. Bailey Farms would truck product to North Carolina for repacking and distribution to its East Coast and Midwestern customers.

Shipping peppers directly from Florida will provide fresher product and increase fuel efficiencies, Bailey said.

J.J. Black, Farmer Mikes co-owner, said the packing facility will expand Florida hot pepper production.

“We’ve grown quite a bit with Bailey Farms over our six years together,” he said.

CRAZY PROMO

To increase pepper consumption, Bailey Farms May 15 began its summer “Crazy from the Heat” retail promotion.

Consumers can see if they’ve won prizes such as tee shirts and hats through numbers printed under peel-away labels on the company’s pepper clamshells.

Bailey said the company has received strong consumer response from the promotion, which focuses more on chile information instead of price. Before starting the program, Bailey Farms’ Web site received 100,000 hits a month. Now, 150,000 consumers visit the site a month. The promotion runs through the end of September.

Finding an outlet for its nearly 1 million pounds of process-grade peppers, Bailey Farms by the end of July plans to roll out a line of hot chile sauces. The jalapeno and red habanero sauces, which will show pictures of fresh chiles on the label, will offer cross-merchandising opportunities for display in the produce aisle.

The idea, Bailey said, is to encourage consumers to buy more fresh peppers through educational information provided on the bottle labels.

Some consumers, Bailey said, will buy a bottle of hot sauce before they buy fresh peppers. Coupons provided on the bottles will allow for fresh pepper purchases, he said.

“People are more into spicy foods now,” Bailey said. “On restaurant menus, it’s ‘chipotle this’ or ‘spicy this’. Everyone wants more flavors."

Bailey Farms continues expansion
Randy Bailey, president of Bailey Farms Inc., Oxford, N.C., looks at a field of tomatillos June 21. Bailey Farms is building a packinghouse in its North Carolina headquarters.