Chillis and peppers, front-line protagonists in the Peruvian cuisine boom, are currently gaining space in the international markets, where they have a vast potential. The goal of different institutions, such as the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM), is to reinforce this trend. The UNALM is working on a Capsicum Project with the support of the Flemish University of Belgium to develop various studies on the opportunities that these products have and their linkage with the development of the country's rural areas.
The recent "Super Foods Peru: chillis and peppers raise their hands" report prepared by the UNALM states: "It's well known that chillis and peppers are very nutritious and that they have a high content of powerful antioxidants; peppers are one of the main vegetables associated to good health. Their most important contributions are dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, K and B6, potassium and magnesium. The literature is abundant and they especially stand out thanks to their exceptional content of vitamin C."
The native chilis, they said, link the ancient agriculture with high cuisine and can help the country position itself as a healthy, bio-diverse and sustainable agricultural power.
The study states that there is a growing global trend for spicy flavors, which is enhanced by the volatile compounds that chillis and peppers have that give the dishes different flavors and aromas, which are often exotic.
In addition, the study states, the capsicum (peppers and paprika) are the most traded spice in the world. Even though peppers originated from neighboring countries, Peru has the greatest diversity of peppers in the world, beating Mexico, Brazil, India, and China.
In addition, these products contain capsaicin and other alkaloids that make them spicy. These are component that have many uses in the medical, agricultural, and defense industries, among others.
The document stresses that there is a need for the markets to promote biodiversity conservation, and to promote agribusiness in various scales.
Why are they Super Foods?
The study proposes including native chilis and peppers in the Super Foods category based on a study from the University of Wuppertal (Germany), which analyzed 147 samples of Peruvian peppers and discovered they had outstanding values in antioxidant capacity, ascorbic acid, and total flavonoids, all of which are indicators of their health-promoting properties. In addition, there are also studies from the UNALM, the Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University, and others universities that confirm the agroindustrial potential associated with healthy foods.
"Eating chili regularly prolongs life," states the report, noting that 16,000 people had been monitored for 19 years on average. "The mortality rate among those who regularly ate chili decreased by 13%. In the future, eating hot peppers could be recommended as part of a healthy diet," it states.
In addition, there is scientific research that validates several popular uses of peppers to relief pain, decrease appetite, and relieve congestion.
How to effectively promote the sector?
As a result of all these considerations, the report of the UNALM's Capsicum Project requests considering using the spicy and tasty concept in the Super Foods Peru trade promotion strategy in general markets (mainly for pickled pepper and hot pepper) and the less exploited native chilis for specialized markets (bio and organic markets). "The spiciness, of course, must be tempered; associating a slight spiciness with the search for food with more character, mischief, and pleasure. This also has great potential in advertising and communication, with the additional message that regularly eating spicy food prolongs life and protects health," it states.
In addition, the report also proposes that the future of Peruvian peppers should not be exclusively linked to the way Peruvians eat them, but as a seasoning, as chutneys for different types of food. These sauces should be promoted in the Peruvian pavilions at major world food fairs, including the local fairs, such as Mistura and Expoalimentaria, and the regional fairs. Another point to work is that the Peruvian restaurants put Peruvian brands of spicy sauces on their tables and that tourists can buy a good assortment of them at the airports so that they can take home spicy memories.
Other lines of action proposed by the report are promoting the taste for pickled pepper or yellow pepper in the international market by producing less spicy varieties that preserve their aroma and flavor. In addition, producers should establish a plan for reducing the use of pesticides in Peruvian chilies, which can cause rejections in international markets.
Finally, the Super Foods Peru campaign could have a bigger scope if it is associated with other national campaigns, such as APEGA's campaign that promotes eating healthy delicious Peruvian food, and other campaings seeking to improve the national diet based on the country's resources.
"A well-fed country is in a better position to sell Superfoods to the world," the report adds.