Black pepper (BP) is globally the most widely used spice and is appreciated for its aroma and taste qualities. Its aroma is influenced by various factors. In the current study, we examined a reference set of 90 quality BP and 40 quality white pepper (WP) samples from the EU spice industry for their volatile organic compounds (VOC) by Proton Transfer Reaction - Mass Spectrometry, as well as 10 low-grade pepper (LG) samples (light berries, rejects, spent). Furthermore, 50 retail BP and 30 WP samples were compared with the reference set. The predominant VOC measured were terpenes. BP presented the most abundant VOC profiles, followed by the WP group, and - at some distance - by the LG pepper material. Reference BP exhibited significantly higher intensities for 41% of the masses compared to WP, and the LG group lower intensities than both BP and WP for 27% of the masses. When using mass 137, the monoterpenes marker, retail samples presented significantly lower VOC intensities than their reference counterparts in case of 42% of the retail BP and 70% of the WP samples. Those samples may have suffered from poor storage conditions during production or potential adulteration or substitution with LG material.