June 16, 2015

SunSelect expansion to yield more peppers

Construction is on track at SunSelect Produce’s new facility in Tehachapi, Calif., promising significantly greater volumes of sweet bell peppers—and more—this fall.

The high-tech greenhouse expansion will double the capacity of SunSelect’s original 32-acre Tehachapi facility, which opened in October 2014.

Just one year later, the expanded facility will focus on growing all three colors of bell peppers as well as diversifying SunSelect’s specialty tomato line-up, complementing the tomatoes-on-the-vine, cocktail tomatoes and red bell peppers grown in the first phase of the greenhouse.

“The concrete is poured, the full structure is up, and glazing is well underway,” said Len Krahn, SunSelect’s vice president, operations and sales. “Everything is on schedule and we expect the construction to be completed in early August, when we’ll do our first planting in the new area.”

The new facility provides many enhancements, including changes to the existing lines to allow for more types of value-added pepper and tomato packaging, said Mike Reed, executive vice president and chief business development officer. “We’re adding new ProSeal machines, and a grape tomato line which will enable us to offer more Euro-style packs with top film for all of our specialty tomatoes. Not only do the packs have terrific shelf and consumer appeal, they also reduce the amount of waste going into landfills by about 25 percent.

“We’re already creating a strong foothold with local retailers seeking high quality local tomato and pepper programs year round. The expanded facility will enable us to grow from here,” Reed continued. “Our location in California’s Central Valley gives us ready access to key markets. In some cases, we can get the product off the plant and onto the store shelf within 48 hours, making SunSelect tomatoes and peppers authentic and appealing ‘Buy California’ promotions.”

Once the expansion is complete, SunSelect will be the only high-tech greenhouse pepper producer in California, and the largest in the U.S., growing on over 24 acres under glass, Reed said.

“The timing of the new Tehachapi production couldn’t be better,” said Aaron Quon, executive category director, greenhouse, for The Oppenheimer Group. Oppy is SunSelect’s exclusive marketing partner and co-investor in the greenhouse. The marketer is currently offering red, yellow and orange sweet bell peppers and Long English cucumbers grown in BC, as well as red peppers, tomatoes-on-the-vine and cocktail tomatoes produced in California.

“The BC greenhouse pepper season will wind down, just as SunSelect’s new production comes on line,” he said. “The new supply will create even more opportunities for us to serve customers in California and beyond.”

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