When you think of Canadian produce, hot peppers might not be the first to come to mind. Yet, hot peppers are just about to come into season now in British Columbia, one of the warmer parts of the country. The field grown pepper season is relatively short - going for a month and a half - but the conditions in BC are excellent for growing them. This year, the weather has been slightly cooler than the longer term average, which is ideal for hot peppers.
"Canadian grown Jalapeno peppers, Habanero peppers and Ring of Fire peppers have a season that runs from mid-August until the end of September," said Andrea Dubak of Calgary-based Thomas Fresh. "The peppers are grown in the Fraser Valley near Abbotsford BC. Although the weather this year began slightly cooler, a small heat wave towards the end of July has done wonders for the peppers."
"Peppers like the hot days and cooler nights," she explained. "This combination allows the peppers to have a deeper color. The growing region in the summer does experience lighter rain, so irrigation is required. The fact that the valley has experienced very little wind is another contributing factor. The lack of wind reduces the amount of appearance related defects and as a result, the peppers will have smooth skin."
Ring of Fire peppers enter second year
Last year, Thomas Fresh launched the Canadian grown "Ring of Fire" peppers, which the company says are the hottest pepper they package. They are considered a specialty variety and are intended for consumers who enjoy very spicy peppers, with the packaging designed to reflect the heat of the pepper. Along with the Ring of Fire, Thomas Fresh are also seeing good demand for other varieties.
"Our Ring of Fire Peppers are a specialty product that was launched last year," Dubak shared. "They are ideal for those that love their food extra spicy! The label brings the heat with a flaming border. Jalapenos are the biggest seller by volume and are a staple hot pepper for many consumers. However Habanero, Poblano, Serrano and Anaheim give consumers the options for various flavour and “heat” levels to their cooking."
Growth in the category coming from two fronts
Hot pepper growers and suppliers in Canada are experiencing strong growth in the category. The growth appears to be coming from two fronts. One is the increasing amount of Canadians willing to experiment with and taste new flavours. The other reason for growth is the growing ethnic population who are looking for a taste of home.
Ring of Fire peppers package design, and Jalapeno peppers with new recyclable tray sticker
"Canadians are becoming increasingly more adventurous with incorporating ethnic ingredients into their cooking," Dubak observed. "We can see this trend demonstrated by the many festivals celebrating spicy food across the country, such as the Similkameen Sizzle last year in British Columbia and the Chilli Festival in Toronto, Ontario. Growth in the hot pepper market will also come from Canada’s increasing ethnic population, as many new comers cook with ingredients from their home countries. Hot peppers are loved by various regions worldwide including: SE Asia, Latin America and Africa."
Newly introduced recyclable packs
Thomas Fresh concentrate a large part of their distribution in western Canada, which is supported by three 3 distribution centers in Surrey, Calgary, and Saskatoon. With the help of these distribution centers, they are also able to send their peppers as far as Manitoba. In what the company says is a move to more eco-friendly packaging, Thomas Fresh have recently moved to a recyclable tray for their 226g pepper trays.
"Both our Ring of Fire and Habanero peppers are available in 12 x 50g packs, with the Jalapeno peppers offered in 12 x 226g packs," Dubak said. "We have recently switched our 226g pepper trays to a recyclable tray which emphasizes eco-friendly and increases the lifespan of our peppers. The black trays can be recycled in Canadian blue boxes easily once the peppers are eaten. As part of the switch, the packages are marked with a special sticker for a limited time. Much of our current packaging is recyclable, but we would like everything to be either recyclable or compostable in the future."
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