U.S.: New product range to challenge bell pepper market, says Enza Zaden
Enza Zaden USA CEO Ton Van der Velden tells www.freshfruitportal.com the peppers, distributed and marketed by Wilson Produce under the trademark 'Mighty Minis', will bring serious competition for more traditional bell peppers.
"Now that we're getting some recognition with the mighty minis, I think they will take market share from the regular bell peppers," he says.
"They are very kid friendly, they’re very healthy, you can just grab one of those mini conical peppers and just eat them like an apple, and you can get 20 of them for the price of three big peppers.
"They’re beautiful on menus, they’re of course very colorful, you can put it on an entrée in the kitchen when you have visitors, and we see tremendous growth because of all those aspects."
The company has its own research station in Florida where it develops big square bell peppers that may come under threat from the new range, but variety is key for Van der Velden.
"Internally we want to diversify as a seed company, so for us the best product wins."
The executive says the company drew on a wide range of genes to develop the product across several different varieties, which are grown in the Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California and Sinaloa.
"It's not a variety but more a type of pepper; It’s a number of varieties with different colors, and we have different varieties for different climatic conditions for Mexico, and they all give pretty much the same shape.
"It was 15 to 20 years ago that the development started, finding more kid-friendly and healthier products that were attractive and easy to use for the household, and we tried to put all these combinations into one vegetable.
"They have been selected out of crosses from Hungarian types for the sweet taste, and with Mexican jalapeño types for climatic adaptation."
He says meeting these goals was not easy in Mexico, where disease resistance is also a key attribute to strive for.
"You can imagine it takes a long time before you have the right type that is productive. It’s a small pepper and you need to have very high production to be competitive on the commercial side with big bell peppers.
"It costs lot of money to harvest those peppers as they’re so small, a lot of labor goes into it, so all that breeding work has to be done for years before you come up with that competitive variety that’s also interesting for the grower to make money."
He expects Wilson Produce, in conjunction with Agricola Bon, to extend its growing base for the product in 2012-13.
"Before they didn’t have as much consistency with the product, but now with growers in different areas, the marketing strategy and the quality controls in place, I expect they will expand."