Randy Bailey says demand continues to grow for the company's small sweet peppers, although a competitive market has slowed the growth rate somewhat.
Randy Bailey says demand continues to grow for the company's small sweet peppers, although a competitive market has slowed the growth rate somewhat.

As snacking continues to grow among American consumers, so does the demand for small sweet peppers, say growers, shippers and seed breeders.

Motti Schramm, Syngenta pepper and tomato portfolio manager based in Sacramento, Calif., said snacking began to hit marketers’ radar about five to six years ago and has gained even more attention the past couple of years or so.

“There will definitely be different peppers coming into snacking, but we see that across several crops and not just peppers,” Schramm said.

A March 2012 report titled “Snacking by America” and authored by The NPD Group, Chicago, backs his observations.

The group examined consumers’ long-term attitudes and behavior surrounding snacking and found that 53% of respondents snacked two to three times per day.

The group also found that consumers with the most healthful diets consumed 36% more snack meals annually than the average consumer — a figure that bodes well for peppers.

Syngenta hopes to capitalize on the trend with Angello, a seedless, pointed miniature sweet pepper that comes in red, yellow and orange.

At the 2012 Fruit Logistica show in Berlin, it received an innovation award.

Angello is currently grown in Europe, and Syngenta plans to introduce it to the North American market in the near future, Schramm said.

Monsanto also has benefited from the snacking trend with its miniature pointed peppers that come in red, orange and yellow, said Bill McCarthy, pepper breeder based in Felda, Fla.

The miniature pointed — also called miniature sweets by some — was introduced in the late 1990s but took several years to catch on.

“I think it took quite a while to convince people they were sweet instead of hot,” he said.

“After 17 years, people are starting to get the point that they are sweet. It seems like it’s a growing segment.”

Immokalee, Fla.-based Lipman Produce has experienced just such growth with its miniature sweet peppers, said Darren Micelle, chief operating officer.

“It’s a good item. I think it sells itself,” he said.

“The question from a farming perspective is the best way to grow them, whether it’s outside or inside.”

Lipman grows most of its miniature sweets in the western U.S. and Mexico and then redistributes them, Micelle said.

Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International also has seen tremendous growth with its miniature sweet peppers, said Mike Aiton, director of marketing.

“It’s been a great new growth item for us, and we continue to expand our acreage,” he said. “It’s doubled over the past couple of years.”

The grower-packer offers the miniature peppers in 1- and 2-pound high-graphic handled pouch bags.

Randy Bailey, president and owner of Oxford, N.C.-based Bailey Farms Inc., said he continues to see demand increasing for miniature sweets, although it has slowed in recent years.

“It’s been good, but not as good as it was three to four years ago because there’s a lot of competition,” he said. “But it’s still growing.”

Bailey Farms markets its snack-sized peppers as Lil Sweeties.