Prime Time Sales LLC in Coachella, CA, which specializes in bell peppers grown in both Mexico and the United States, first ran trials of mini-sweet peppers as an expansion of its line in mainland Mexico during the 2010-11 season, crossing the products into Nogales, AZ.
The trials went well, and the company increased production in 2011-12 and again in 2012-13, according to Mike Aiton, marketing manager.
This year, the company has again increased its mini-sweet pepper production, Aiton said Nov. 19. “We have never had as many mini-peppers in Mexico as we have this winter. That is one item we have grown considerably across the board, maybe 20 percent from last year.”
The little mini-sweets are typically about one and a half inches long, he said. Like the company’s full-sized colored bell peppers, the mini-sweets come in red, yellow and orange.
“Right now, the mini peppers are very active [with] very high prices,” Aiton said. “In advance of the holidays, the markets are high” as demand exceeds supply. “We are just now coming into what I would call good volume, and it is going to get bigger for us with every passing week,” he said. “[It is] a great item. We have quite a good following on that particular item right now.”
Apart from the mini-sweets, “our program is largely unchanged” from last year for the Nogales deal, Aiton said.
Prime Time’s Mexican production consists of red, yellow, orange and green bell peppers plus the mini-sweets and, in addition, round vine ripe tomatoes, Roma tomatoes and grape tomatoes.
The acreage this season is “fairly static” on the bell peppers and up about 20 percent on the tomato products, but while the bell peppers are grown in the state of Sinaloa in mainland Mexico, the tomato products are grown on the Baja Peninsula. They cross into the United Sates at San Diego rather than Nogales.
Prime Time has both hothouse and field-grown bell peppers, Aiton said. “We have both elongated and blocky” styles. “The biggest item we have are the field grown elongated red peppers. Next is green bells, then our hothouse varieties — red, yellow and orange — are next in terms of volume.”
The company began receiving hothouse peppers from Sinaloa in early November. “Volume is going to continue to increase as we move deeper into the season,” Aiton said.
The green bell peppers were expected to start around the first week in December, with the field-grown red bells starting around Christmastime. Those are “fairly typical starting dates,” he said.
Prime Time was currently receiving tomato products from its grower in the Vizcaino area of Baja. “Those are all loading in San Diego right now” and will go all the way through winter, he said. The company also has a spring deal out of La Paz in southern Baja.
One advantage for Prime Time in its Mexican production, according to Aiton, is that it is very consistent with the company’s California production. “The packinghouse that we have in Sinaloa, for example, is the exact duplicate of the one we have in Coachella,” he said. “The standards are the same. The people are the same. The policies and procedures are the same. Our customers tell us it is very seamless to move from one area to another just because of the consistency and the quality and the sizing and the packs that we put up. So having complete control, I think, is an advantage for us.”