The growth areas in specialty produce are many and varied, but they seem to exude a Latin flavor, according to some marketers.
A number of suppliers point to some varieties of chili peppers as the category’s new stars. Others point to tropical fruits or niche greens, such as radicchio, for having generated steady sales increases in recent years.
Chili peppers that reach high on the Scoville scale,a measure of a pepper’s heat level, seem to be getting attention today, said James Macek, president of Coosemans Denver Inc.
“Everybody’s now pretty familiar with the ghost pepper,” one of the hottest of the hot peppers, he said.
Scorpion peppers, which register even higher Scoville readings than ghost peppers, also are finding audiences, particularly in high-end restaurants, Macek said.
The shishito pepper, which is fairly mild, also has drawn some attention, Macek said.
“Peppers, in general, are a good fit for a diverse population,” Macek said.
Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Vernon, Calif.-based World Variety Produce Inc., which markets under the Melissa’s brand, said he has seen 7% growth in the Latin category of produce in the last year.
“Anaheim, poblano and hatch are the category pepper leaders, but other items like jicama, chayote squash, cilantro and tomatillo are showing future growth in the category, as well,” Schueller said.
French green beans
Other items within the specialty category are showing promise for growth, said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based grower-shipper Southern Specialties.
Eagle cited his company’s line of Southern Selects French green beans as one example of a niche product that is attracting more demand.
“We have a variety of pack sizes, and we see that demand continuing into the summer as the French beans are not only great enjoyed hot but they are tender, flavorful and work exceptionally well in salads,” he said. The beans are common ingredients in nicoise salads, he said.
Eagle said the French green beans stand out from standard green beans in several ways, including a thinner body.
“They don’t have a fiber string that many typical green beans have, and they have no mature seeds inside the pods,” he said.
The also have unique flavor, nutritional value and texture, he said.
Mamey sapote and star fruit have growing followings in certain regions and ethnic populations, said Eddie Caram, general manager of Princeton, Fla.-based New Limeco LLC.