here’s a heat wave sweeping over menus,
kitchens and grocery stores nationwide.
From classic chile and habanero peppers to
the daring Trinidad Scorpion and Carolina
Reaper, spicy produce is hot with consumers right now.
What was once exclusive to exotic restaurants and specialty grocers is now customary for traditional eateries
and supermarkets as consumers increasingly seek to
bring bold, adventurous flavors to their dinner plates.
Grocery forecasters and culinary experts have declared
ethnic flavors to be one of this year’s hottest trends, and
retailers are already getting a taste of the heat. Though
pepper sales declined 2.1% in the 52 weeks ending Oct.
28, according to New York-based Nielsen FreshFacts, the
category raked in a hefty $1.4 billion last year. But it’s the
hot pepper varieties, in particular, that are spicing up gro-
cers’ earnings, with dollar sales significantly increasing
compared to a year ago. Hot cherry peppers and hot ancho
peppers are on fire, with sales growing a whopping 52.6%
and 32.3%, respectively, from the year prior, while hot
long peppers, hot poblano peppers and hot habanero pep-
pers sales increased 11.1%, 7.8% and 7.2%, respectively,
compared to last year.
“People are in love with hot flavors,” says Marty Myers,
president of Willy’s Fresh Salsa, based in Swanton, Ohio.
Producer of fresh, Mexican restaurant-style refrigerated salsa, the company caters to health-conscious and
heat-seeking consumers with an all-natural product line
in seven varieties.
Mingling the Merchandise
Merchandising salsa products with fresh fruits and vege-
tables has proven successful for manufacturers and retail-
ers alike. “Our salsa has been a real nice complement to
the produce department,” Myers says, noting the compa-
ny’s success with retail partners such as Food City, Pub-
lix and The Kroger Co. Made with an assortment of fresh
peppers and vegetables, with a 120-day shelf life, Willy’s
Salsa offers a healthy, clean-label product that appeals to
adventurous food palates. “The freshness of all our prod-
ucts is really what the customers are looking for.”
Indeed, fresh products are what drive growth across the
entire grocery store, according to recent Nielsen insights,
which found that top-performing U.S. fresh retailers expe-
rience stronger growth (4% in 2016) across total store sales,
compared to bottom-performing fresh counterparts (1%
total store growth). Without bright, colorful, high-quality
produce and related products, retailers risk losing out on
sales, and even lifelong customers. For instance, shop-
pers have recently panned Whole Foods Market for the
decline in the quality of its produce since its acquisition by
Amazon, according to a recent article by Business Insider,
which cited “bruised, discolored, tasteless and rotten pro-
duce in Whole Foods stores from California to New York.”
And for picky pepper lovers, subpar quality will not fly.
Fresh peppers provide an appealing pop of vibrant color
in the produce aisle and help drive sales when cross-mer-
chandised in other fresh departments. “Remaining in
tune with evolving customer preferences and executing
effective promotions and display merchandising have
yielded favorable results,” says Jannah Jablonowski,
a spokesperson for Pittsburgh’s market leader, Giant
Eagle. The retailer has transitioned its line of variety
peppers from bulk to prepackaged options in response
to increased consumer demand for packaged and con-
venient produce offerings, and also effectively highlights
peppers in attractive displays during appropriate holidays
such as the Super Bowl, Cinco de Mayo and summer grill-
ing season. “We often cross-merchandise peppers in our
meat departments with everyday meal solutions in mind,
in addition to holiday-driven displays, which may include
garlic, peppers and other relevant items around Cinco de
Mayo,” Jablonowski says.
Coming In Hot
Consumers’ flair for spicy fare has pepper
sales soaring. By Natalie Taylor
Dollar sales of peppers
during the 52 weeks
ending Oct. 28, 2017.
Source: Nielsen FreshFacts