Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Introducing Whole Trade Bell Peppers

By Paige Brady, January 3, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Paige Brady

After several years of work by our grower and certifying partner, we’re pleased to announce that we can now offer Whole Trade® bell peppers to our customers.

Grown in greenhouses outside the city of Culiacán in Sinaloa, Mexico, loose and packaged Whole Trade bell peppers will be available in most of our stores from January until May, when US production ramps up again. Our Whole Trade® Guarantee ensures fair prices are paid for products, better wages and working conditions, and sound environmental practices.

These Whole Trade bell peppers also generate a 1% donation of retail sale value to the Whole Planet Foundation.

These peppers come from Divemex, growers we have worked with for a few years now.

We were pleased when Fair Trade USA came in as a certifier and helped the company meet their rigorous standards, which now qualifies the peppers for our Whole Trade Guarantee. Recently, a group from our produce team visited the Divemex 175-acre greenhouse farm.

They toured the facilities, learned about their production techniques and met some of the 600 people who are employed at the farm. Here’s what Matt Rogers of Whole Foods Market Produce had to say about the trip:

It was still a couple of weeks before harvest when we visited, but we saw some nice green peppers maturing on the plants.
From a quality perspective, we like to see peppers with good blocky shape, full seed pack, even cavities around the seeds, and nice thick walls. Color comes on about three weeks after a pepper is mature and green. In the next five months, this farm will produce more than 10 million pounds of colored bell peppers!
With the Fair Trade certification, Whole Foods Market and our customers receive independent verification that working conditions and environmental practices on the farm meet high standards. Fair Trade also requires that a part of our purchase price be passed through to a fund controlled directly by the workers on the farm. The workers vote on how to invest the money to benefit their communities.
We met with the workers committee and they explained that the workforce had already voted to support three distinct education support programs for different interest groups:
  • One for children of workers to support basic needs associated with attending primary school (uniforms, transportation, etc.)
  • Another for workers themselves who want to continue their secondary education while they work
  • And a separate one for workers seeking professional training of some sort to advance their careers.
Many of the workers at this farm are migrants from other areas of Mexico and special attention has been paid to ensure the families of these workers will also have access to the programs.
We’re always excited to be able to support growers like Divemex who take the quality of their product and the wellness of their workforce seriously.

We hope you’ll pick up these peppers in our stores and help make this new program a success.

Tell us what you think. When you buy something like bell peppers, do you consider the impact your purchase makes?




janejohnson says ...
@Christina Currently, only products listed as organic are certified non-GMO.
01/17/2012 12:55:55 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Alex There are indeed organic WTG peppers grown by Divemex and purchased by Whole Foods Market. WFM is buying the organic Whole Trade Guarantee peppers, but they are just now starting up (they should be in some stores next week). Please note that they will not be in all stores as the volume is limited. We are looking forward to expanding our partnership with Divemex to supply a greater quantity of organic peppers in the future. Also, in regards to conventional peppers, please note that all of our Whole Trade produce is either Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade certified. Both of these independent certifiers ensure that very specific environmental standards are met. Thanks for reaching out!
01/05/2012 1:24:08 PM CST
Sarah says ...
I don't think I really have ever thought of what impact my purchase choices of peppers make (other than whether or not the peppers are organic). I'm so glad to have read this this morning!
01/03/2012 8:41:45 AM CST
Danielle says ...
I'm a produce enthusiast but usually we don't hear nice stories behind a farm. I love the idea of having a nice story behind every produce purchase i make.
01/05/2012 11:22:36 PM CST
Guillermo de la Torre says ...
Congratulations. It is always great to see two serious companies working on a project like this. Positive results should come along shortly. Rgds
01/05/2012 11:24:52 PM CST
St. McDuck says ...
Are they organic though? I don't buy produce that isn't organic, especially the stuff on the 'Dirty Dozen' list, where bell peppers are #8: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary
01/10/2012 12:34:56 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@St. McDuck A few of our stores are offering Organic Whole Trade Bell Peppers. To learn if your store carries the organic peppers, I encourage you to reach out to them directly. Their contact information can be found at the following link. www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores
01/17/2012 12:53:47 PM CST
Alex says ...
I fully support better working conditions and higher wages, but part of better working conditions includes reduced exposure to pesticides. How come part of this venture between WFM and Divemex didn't include these peppers to be produced organicallY?
01/03/2012 4:26:11 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Debbie There are some Whole Trade Guarantee Organic Bell Peppers offered in some stores. Please check with your community Whole Foods Market to learn if the peppers at your store are, indeed, organic. The link below will help identify the contact information for your store. Thanks for reaching out. www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores
01/05/2012 12:29:56 PM CST
Jennifer says ...
I second the question about pesticides,etc. Given that bell peppers are on the "dirty dozen" list and it's recommended to buy organic, I'd like to learn more about the "sound environmental practices" you mention. Otherwise, it sounds great!
01/05/2012 8:49:37 AM CST
janejohnson says ...
Update: Thanks for all of the great clarifying questions. I checked with our produce buyer Matt Rogers and here's what he says: "We are offering both organic and conventional Whole Trade peppers. This is the first year we’ve been offered organic bell peppers from Mexico and if our customers like them, we will grow the program with Divemex. The Whole Trade conventional peppers are grown in a greenhouse which allows the farmers to use integrated pest management, a system where predator pests, who consume harmful pests but don’t hurt the plants or the peppers, are introduced into the growing environment. This practice, and a more controlled environment in general, makes it possible for Divemex to produce conventional peppers with less pesticides and other inputs."
01/09/2012 12:11:11 PM CST
elisabeth c says ...
Noticed you didn't mention organic. What chemicals are the workers being exposed to while growing these peppers? Peppers usually retain so many toxins when not grown organically. Can you explain your decision not to grow these organically?
01/06/2012 3:08:19 PM CST
Christina says ...
I would like to know if these peppers are GMO, Important to know that they are part of your Fair Trade program but it is equaly important to know how these peppers are grown. Regards Christina
01/10/2012 8:01:57 AM CST
Debbie says ...
Fair Trade is good but are they organic?
01/04/2012 6:37:46 PM CST
Adam says ...
that's great, I will have to check them out when I see them what about the issue of pesticides? if they're grown in a greenhouse, are they grown with any or less pesticides?
01/04/2012 7:58:29 PM CST
Cathy says ...
I think that the peppers on the dirty dozen list are most likely field grown peppers not greenhouse grown peppers. All greenhouse grown vegetables, I believe, use very little and in some cases, no pesticides or herbicides (good bugs control bad bugs). Why doesn't Whole Foods tell this story. Greenhouse grown vegetables are the closest you can get to organic without it being organic.
02/05/2013 11:59:58 AM CST
Maureen Simpson says ...
I bought the already sliced peppers in a clamshell type package. I was wondering if they have a lot of pesticides on them since they are part of the "dirty dozen". They taste great but I was wondering if you should really buy organic? Thanks, Maureen
03/03/2013 1:23:54 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MAUREEN - Since those are probably cut in-house, I would encourage you to check with your local store to see what type of bell peppers they use. In the meantime, you can read more about organic options at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/organic-food.
03/05/2013 11:44:49 AM CST
Lydia Villescasl says ...
Can you tell me the type of sweet pepper I bought by the code that was on the pepper? I saved some seeds but I don't know what kind of pepper the seeds came from. I did save the sticker. It is USDA Organic from Mexico and the name of the company is Divemex. The code is 94688. Thank you for your help.
07/07/2014 1:00:41 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@LYDIA - I would suggest calling the store directly where you purchased the pepper and they can definitely tell you type based on the PLU!
07/07/2014 1:49:09 PM CDT
PING ZHENG says ...
I am your old customer almost ten years for the organic foods. I take the organic color bell peppers and organic lacinato kale everyday, I'd like to kown do they are GM products? How to prove which one is not GM product in your store? Please give me a response. Thank you.
03/18/2015 5:45:23 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@PING - USDA organic standards do not allow any genetically engineered ingredients. So if you're looking to avoid GMOs, look for organic products.
03/20/2015 6:21:53 PM CDT
DPW says ...
@Lydia, @Nikki 94688 is the code for an organic, greenhouse-grown red bell pepper.
05/08/2015 8:26:26 AM CDT