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Peppers win a sweet deal with UK supermarket

Date: 12/04/2007 | Posted by John Garton
Graham Le Lay's premium peppers have won him a deal with a national supermarket. GJ Growers – which Graham runs with his son Mark – will provide Sainsbury with 100,000 packets of extra sweet Ramiro peppers between now and November.

The Ramiro variety is a long, sweet red pepper. It is being grown under licence for the first time in Jersey and is widely acknowledged to be the best variety of pepper, both for taste and texture. Ramiros are usually sourced from the European mainland but Sainsbury also wanted peppers which had been produced in the British Isles and the Le Lays won the contract.

Graham said: “We were delighted to win the contract. It’s obviously not our first deal with a British supermarket, but Ramiros are an exclusive variety – the crème de la crème of peppers – so it’s terrific to get this vote of assurance from a retailer who places such high importance on quality. There are many imitations in the pepper world but none can rival the Ramiro for taste and crunch.”

Although these Ramiros are licensed for the UK market, the Le Lays are allowed to sell limited quantities to local farm shops and CI Traders outlets from this month.

GJ Growers is Jersey’s largest commercial pepper producer. The business follows the strictest guidelines to comply with UK regulations and is a Certified Assured Produce member. All the pepper crops are regularly spot-checked by the States of Jersey and UK supermarkets for pesticide residue, and neither pesticides nor fungicides have ever been used at the nursery.

The family business was set up in 1992 and today employs seven staff. About 90 per cent of the produce is exported to Sainsbury in the United Kingdom. The nursery has built a strong reputation for high quality produce and Graham is keener than ever to assure consumers and local restaurants that they are buying GJ Growers produce.

Graham said: “Traceability in the industry is more important than ever. We wanted to guard against any dishonest suppliers who could damage our reputation so we have decided to label every Class 1 pepper sold to local wholesalers and national supermarkets this year. We’ve invested heavily in modern greenhouses and latest control systems for heating, ventilation, shading, carbon dioxide and irrigation. These yield nearly 80 tonnes of peppers per month for export, as well as seven tonnes for Jersey outlets. Now, each first class pepper will carry a badge of our quality on it.”

In addition to the 14,000 m² of greenhouse, the site at Vinchelez in St Ouen has a high-tech packing facility for sizing and weighing the peppers. This is where the Ramiro peppers will be individually labelled.