Bulk displays continue to dominate the pepper category in retail produce departments, but some retailers are discovering that value packs can sell as well, marketers say.

“We’re seeing a high demand for multi-packs, especially in the value format,” said Darren Micelle, marketing officer for Immokalee, Fla.-based Six L’s Packing Co. Inc.

“Bag packaging has also increased, in order to cater to value, as well.”

Tri-color packaging is growing in popularity because it exposes consumers to a variety of colored peppers and creates a higher ring, said Aaron Quon, greenhouse category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

“Packaged pepper sales have increased by about 5% since 2006,” he said. “Selling peppers in packs is ideal because it helps maintain quality while providing a value-size offering.”

The multiple colors and shapes found in the pepper category can make for a compelling package, said Javier Gonzalez, Miami-based category manager for Edinburg, Texas-based Frontera Produce LLC.

“I would love to see some sort of mixed pepper assortment, like they do with the different colored bell peppers, putting together several dishes and creating a full meal,” he said.

“Sometimes, somebody will pick up one item and zero in and not take on the whole deal.”

Too often, consumers discover pepper varieties on a “one-by-one” basis, Gonzalez said.

“We’d make a lot more strides if people would jump in and take it on as part of a whole meal,” he said.

“A lot of these ingredients are integrated. How about a salad with something where you integrate several items at once, where you reach the legitimacy of what that meal would be like?”

Some varieties, such as mini sweets, are more amenable to packaging concepts than bell peppers, particularly in the current economic climate, some marketers said.

“We’d get calls for tray pack bells, and then, about two years ago, we went back to volume fill,” said Greg Cardamone, general manager for vegetables with Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos.

“That seems to be the continual shift. The retailers recognize the consumer, with the economy the way it is, they’re not willing to pay a premium for some goods. Obviously, bagged salads are still good but, for staple items, the more you can give them for the price, the better the sales.”

Value is an important part of the equation, said Kevin Batt, sales director for Langley, British Columbia-based BC Hot House Foods Inc.

“Retailers are always looking for uplift in rings, so bagged peppers ensure that there is perceived value on behalf of the consumer and that each ring offers the retailer maximum dollars,” Batt said.

“As well, bagged peppers offer longer shelf life and ultimately less shrink. Multi-colored three-count, six-count and 2-pound bags can add to instant uptick in rings at the checkout. BC Hot House 2-pound mixed peppers are ideal during the late summer and into the fall as the perfect value added offerings.”

Peppers remain largely a bulk item at retail, said Damon Barkdull, salesman with Gilroy, Calif.-based Uesugi Farms Inc.

“As far as bell peppers go in packaging, I don’t see anything more favorable. People like to touch the product,” he said. “There’s only so much overpackaging you can do.

“With chili peppers, you’re talking to Hispanic clienteles, and they most definitely won’t pay for overpackaging. If they can go to one store and buy jalapeños bulk, they’re always going to pick buying bulk. It’s the idea of saving money.”

There is a market for convenience, and that means packaging, said Ed Sullivan, chief marketing officer for Pero Family Farms Food Co. LLC, Delray Beach, Fla.

“I think the whole key to that is it has to be obviously convenient,” he said.

“Is it ready to use? Has it been washed? If it’s going to be a mix, is the mix the right combination that is popular with consumers?”

Immokalee-based Pacific Collier Fresh Co. doesn’t do any multi-color packs, although “they do make for a nice display,” said Jim Monteith, sales manager for the vegetable department.

“When you look at the stoplight packs, it’s a good pack for people to buy for fajitas,” he said. “That’s a good attraction.”

For green peppers, he said, bulk rules.

“It seems to be the way consumer wants them,” he said.

“Even when you go into places like the club stores, you see the colored bell peppers, red, yellow and orange, three-packs and stuff like that. But as far as green, you don’t see any three-pack green. You may see six to a bag, but I don’t think that’s really geared toward retail. I think it’s geared more toward small restaurants.”