A new specialty pepper program begins from a Florida-based shipper with plans to scale the program up in the near future.
Miami, Fl.-based Ecoripe Tropicals will begin its Shishito pepper program in April. This pepper is small, green and wrinkly with a distinctive sweet, smoky flavor profile and the program is being added onto its existing line of specialty peppers which include Thai Chili Peppers and the Habanero Pepper.
Both the Habaneros and Thai Chilis are grown in the Dominican Republic while the Shishitos come from Guatemala. “All our peppers are grown year-round with volumes fluctuating on prevailing weather conditions,” says Marc Holbik of Ecoripe. “Mexico is also a primary production region for these peppers. However our growing locations with the closest port of entry being Miami allows us to be very competitive in Florida and East coast markets. We operate a PrimusGFS Packinghouse certified facility here in Miami so we repack to our customers requirements.”
Bringing on major retailers
Holbik notes that while the majority of volume on the peppers is allocated to traditional ethnic markets, the category is seeing growth elsewhere. “More major retailers are catering to the needs of their specific communities,” he says.
Meanwhile pricing for specialty peppers is on the high end currently. “It’s much higher than this time last year as production volumes are currently low and costs are up, though we do hope to see more volume by May,” Holbik says. “As with everyone in our industry, we have all been very challenged with the pandemic and the increasing material and logistics costs. We are working hard to be as agile as possible to provide the best value to our customers while ensuring the long-term sustainability of our farmers.”
Looking ahead though, Holbik notes current events such as spiking gas prices and geopolitical tensions could have an affect on consumer spending on food. “We may feel a slowdown but my hope is in times of uncertainty, we often find solace in food and family so perhaps spending on specialty peppers will not be affected,” he says.