Prime Time Sales LLC. in Coachella, CA, exclusive sales agent for Prime Time
International, also in Coachella, is in the bell pepper business year round, with
production in both California and Mexico.
The Mexican share of the company's volume has been expanding, and now
"we actually have greater production in Mexico than we do in California, so it
is a huge part of our program," said Mike Aiton, director of marketing.
“Probably last year would be the first year when the scale kind of tipped.”
In California, Prime Time’s production of green bells starts in April and the red
bells start about mid-May, he said. The first California peppers of the year
come out of Coachella. Then production moves up to Bakersfield, over to
Oxnard, and back down to Coachella for the fall, with some overlap among the
In Mexico, Prime Time begins harvesting bell peppers in the state of Sinaloa in
November and packing them at the company’s packing facility near Culiacan.
They are then brought to Prime Time’s Nogales facility for distribution. “We are
just starting now,” Mr. Aiton said Nov. 16. “We have actually started receiving
peppers into Nogales as we speak.” The Culiacan production will typically
continue through about mid-April. That dovetails into production from Baja
California, Mexico for April and May, crossing into San Diego.
“If everything goes right, all the transitions will be very seamless for our
customers,” he said. “I think we will have good promotable volumes for the
next six months.”
Currently, “we are harvesting peppers in Oxnard, Coachella, mainland Mexico
and Baja California, so we’ve got all four places going,” he said. “Demand is
good in advance of the holidays, so we are making the most of it while we
have the opportunity.”
The company’s acreage in Mexico is “up a bit” this year, Mr. Aiton said. “We
continue to be bullish on Mexico, both mainland and Baja, and our production
continues to increase.”
Prime Time will have good supplies of both hothouse and field peppers
throughout the season, according to Mr. Aiton. The hothouse product is
packed in 11-pound boxes, and the field grown product is packed in 15-
pound and 25-pound boxes. In addition, the peppers are available in special
“We do reds, greens, yellows and oranges,” he said.
The big news for this year, Mr. Aiton said, is that “we are in the midst of
expanding and remodeling” the Culiacan packinghouse. The project is
designed to “increase our throughput” and also to make improvements in
dumping, sizing, grading and pre-cooling, “so it is an extensive project. We
have been working on it for quite some time and were hoping to have it done
by now,” but it now appears that it will be “shortly after the beginning of the
year until it is up and rolling at full capacity.”
The facility improvements have been needed “to modernize the facility and be
able to provide the same quality and sorting and sizing and pre-cooling that
we do at our other packinghouses,” he said.
“One of the things we are doing” with the facility improvements at the
Culiacan facility is “expanding its capability to do bags,” he said. “Bags seem
to be a growing part of our business.” Prime Time does bags in three-, four-,
six- and 12-count sizes, “and we can mix and match the colors” to whatever
customers would like. “We have some customers that prefer just one color,
and some like the stoplight [pack]“ with red, yellow and green peppers in the
pack. “We have display boxes for the bags” in addition to the regular standard
cartons which are Euro-style “so they fit snugly on regular pallets.”
Everything is packed in the “Prime Time” label.
“We take great care down there [in Mexico] to make sure the cooling is right,
to make sure the palletization is right, and to get [the product] from the field
to the packinghouse, cool them in the packinghouse, and get them up to
Nogales as quickly as possible,” he said.
“We have a fully-staffed year-round office in Nogales” as well as a distribution
warehouse, Mr. Aiton said. On sales in the Nogales office are Bobby Astengo
and Art Mendoza. In addition, there are four people on sales in the Coachella
office who also sell the product.