Prime Time International plans to increase its bagged bell pepper offerings as the company begins its first full Mexican winter season in a refurbished packinghouse near Culiacan, Mexico.

Last season, the facility didn’t become available until the tail end of the deal, from about March 1 on.

“The whole bagged pepper program seems to be growing,” said Mike Aiton, director of marketing for Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International.

“Having centralized packing gives us a lot of flexibility. We can put three colors or eight peppers in a bag. It’ll add to our SKUs in peppers. We’ve seen customers have good results when they expand their peppers.”

Of Prime Time’s Mexican production, 85% is in peppers. Greens, yellows and reds come in field-grown and protected agriculture versions.

Acreage is up about 10%, Aiton said. Growing operations are in Sinaloa, Baja and Jalisco.

Bell peppers are expected to start Dec. 10 to Dec. 15, and availability on all peppers runs into April.

Prime Time is also expanding its mini sweet peppers, packed in 1- and 2-pound bags and in bulk.

The company also grows tomatoes in Baja.

Protected peppers

At L&M Cos., one featured item will be shadehouse-grown green bells.

“They’ll be electronically sized and sorted and we’re real excited to have the premium pack of bell peppers to offer to our customers,” said Greg Cardamone, general manager of vegetables for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M.

“We’ll be packing the extra large and jumbo peppers. We’ve been growing bells in shadehouses for several years, but the addition of electronic sizing will set us apart.”

L&M, which has a Nogales, Ariz., branch, also hopes to distinguish itself by concentrating on greens — no colored bells are planned.

The greens are grown from December through May in Culiacan.

The Giumarra Cos. planned to begin production on green bells Nov. 1, with hothouse colored bells to follow Nov. 15 and continue through the end of May, said Cesar Pacheco, sales manager for the Nogales branch. Giumarra expected volume to equal last year’s.

Hot peppers

Rio Rico, Ariz.-based Natural Flavor Produce LLC expected to start hot peppers — serranos, caribes and the like, grown in Sinaloa — near the end of November.

The company plans to move about 50,000 packages of hot peppers, said Pat Leal, office manager.

Nogales-based Ciruli Bros. is adding hot peppers to its lineup, said Chuck Ciruli III, chief executive officer.

“We’ve added green bell peppers in Hermosillo,” Ciruli said.

To the south, Ciruli Bros. is sourcing jalapeños and tomatillos from Los Mochis and is increasing its green bean volume there.