Consumer interest in new flavours and health-related attributes has risen, leading food companies to seek out new crops and varieties to meet an emerging market for increasingly sophisticated palates and a more healthy food. The search for the ‘hottest’ chilli peppers is one such emerging niche market.
The Andean Region of South America is the centre of origin for many traditional varieties of chilli pepper (Capsicum). Peru has the highest diversity of cultivated chilli peppers in the world, while Bolivia is the centre of origin for several cultivated and wild pepper varieties.
But while the differences in chilli varieties can be easily seen, smelled and tasted, little research has gone into mapping and studying the different traits and how this diversity of shapes, colours, flavours, pungency and health-related attributes could be linked to entrepreneurs, giving a much-needed income boost to the smallholder rural producers who grow and maintain them.