Consumer Success Is Key To Industry Success [Opinion]

Editor’s Note: Over the next several months, this column will feature a roundtable of viewpoints from various team members with vested interest in and experience with Greenhouse Grower and the horticulture market.

Carol MillerIn early April, the Greenhouse Grower editorial team enjoyed that epic, exhausting and brilliant road trip known as California Spring Trials. After taking thousands and thousands of photos, driving hundreds of miles and talking to dozens of people, it took a few days to process all that we experienced.

One of the themes that emerged from the clutter of memories and notes was how breeders are giving substance to claims of wanting to help consumers succeed. It’s something we as an industry have been discussing for a long time, but we have also struggled with how to deliver that at multiple levels.

Take color fads. Lime green was hot for awhile, then black leaves were all the rage. Breeders developed a lot of great plants to match the trends, but let’s be honest, there were also a lot of stinkers.

Those plants, both good and bad, were developed because of consumer demand. But how much they ultimately advanced gardening is open for debate. Consumers want to stay on trend, sure, but they want to succeed even more.

Greenhouse Grower’s sister publication, Today’s Garden Center, recruited Dr. Bridget Behe of Michigan State University and Dr. Susan Hogan of Emory University to conduct consumer research to learn which barriers exist that prevent younger generations from gardening.

The team collected a lot of information from three different focus groups that took place over three days each. There were dozens of questions that generated hundreds of pages of transcripts, and a funny thing happened. One of the most important findings came from spontaneous comments and not from questions the researchers prepared. The terms “luck” and “risk” came up repeatedly.

Consumers feel they have very little control over a plant’s survival. If the plant thrives, it’s due to luck, not good gardening practices or even good breeding. The specter of a new plant dying soon after planting is always present, however, which makes the money spent on plants a risk.

Breeders Are Focusing On Fool-Proof Plants

Many breeders are aware of the problem and are striving to ensure that plants in a customer’s home garden will live up to the visual appeal the plant has on a store display bench. A lot of the resulting plants were on display in California.

Several companies promoted compact varieties that require very little or no growth regulators to maintain their petite habit. These plants remove the risk of customers being dismayed when well-formed, small plants revert to their original genetics in the home garden and turn into leggy, sprawling bullies.

I would feel even better about this development, though, if I was certain that the reason behind the breeding effort stemmed from concern for the home user and not purely a desire for fewer inputs in the greenhouse. Many of the breeding advances are geared to benefit growers, from shorter growing periods to ease of shipping.

Don’t get me wrong, these are important goals to chase. As an industry we need to control costs. But we also need to make sure advances for growers do not have a negative result for the end user. Are plants that can be propagated more quickly than others in the species as long-lived? Will plants look as good a month after purchase as they do on the bench? If not, then consumers will continue to lose interest in gardening and we’ll be facing a much bigger challenge of trying to find an audience for our plants.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Consumer Success Is Key To Industry Success [Opinion]

  1. I agree with your opinion. Consumer success is a must to keep the industry thriving. It does not matter where someone buys a plant, if they fail, we will lose a Millennial for 3 years because they failed and the whole experience wasn’t worth their time. The issue we run into with the millennial generation of gardeners is that our industry is complicated. When something is complicated you have to take the time to understand it. In the crazy busy culture of the Millennial generation, many of them do not want to take the time that it takes to learn all about gardening just to pick out or plant a couple of nice containers. They want it to be easy, quick and to perform. I think that’s where the “luck” and “risk” words come into play. Many times they are just winging it and hoping for the best. I’ve been observing this over the last few years as a major issue in our industry and this is why we are developing the GrowIt! Mobile App. We want to make it easier for the millennial generation to get inspired AND for them to find plants that perform in their local area. I hear what you’re saying and I agree with you.…our solution is GrowIt!

More From Business Management...

April 28, 2016

Holistic, Integrated Approach To Pest Control Rooted In Research

Greenhouse growers have been practicing integrated pest management for decades, but it’s becoming increasingly more important with the continued scrutiny of conventional pest control by a number of “regulators” — government, retail, and consumers. I just returned from Meister Media Worldwide’s Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference, in Monterey, CA, at the beginning of March this year, which served 450 attendees and 50 exhibiting supplier companies. It’s clear from the presentations and the growing attendance at this specialized event — now only in its second year — that use of biocontrols in IPM will continue to be adopted widely, as more growers get past their personal hurdles of doubt and intimidation, and embrace a new way to approach pest and disease control. Many growers think of using biocontrols as an all-or-nothing approach, but ultimately, IPM is about balance. Growers will need to continue to focus on IPM, integrating chemistry with biology, because […]

Read More

April 26, 2016

“Bee-Friendly” Labels Matter To Plant Consumers, According To Study

Research at Michigan State University shows ornamental plant buyers understand and respond to bee-friendly production practices.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses For Greenhouse Growers

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 26, 2016

“Bee-Friendly” Labels Matter To Plant Consumers, Accord…

Research at Michigan State University shows ornamental plant buyers understand and respond to bee-friendly production practices.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses …

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
HGTV_2015CAST

April 24, 2016

9 Business Predictions Smart Brands Should Pay Attentio…

Andreas von der Heydt, Director of Kindle at Amazon, recently predicted what smart businesses will do in 2016 to strengthen their brands and promote their products.

Read More
Lin Schmale 1996

April 23, 2016

SAF’s Lin Schmale Offers Lessons From An Industry…

Schmale represented the floriculture industry on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years. The advocate has recently retired, and shares some valuable insights from her career.

Read More
Scott Schaefer Aris CEO

April 22, 2016

New Aris CEO Scott Schaefer Looks Forward To Dealing Wi…

Schaefer, who has been with Aris for 15 years, grew up working at his family’s greenhouse operation in Illinois.

Read More
Krause Berry Farms Farm To Table Dinner

April 20, 2016

What The Floriculture Industry Can Learn From Farm Mark…

Although we have a lot in common with the produce industry, there is much we can learn from one another.

Read More
Janeen Wright

April 18, 2016

Three Lessons From A Master Greenhouse Vegetable Grower

Three lessons from greenhouse vegetable grower Casey Houweling that you can apply to your business.

Read More
Costa Farms Container Ideas E-Book

April 12, 2016

Costa Farms Targets Consumers With New Container Garden…

The electronic book offers tips on container selection, design, and plant care for millennials looking to grow in small spaces.

Read More
An Edible Evening At Stephen F Austin

April 11, 2016

How The Greenhouse Industry Can Propagate Gardeners The…

Jared Barnes at Stephen F. Austin University says we are the experts at propagating plants. That’s knowledge we can put to good use to envision how to attract new gardeners and future horticulturists to the industry.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

April 7, 2016

USDA Launches GroupGAP Program For Fruit And Vegetable …

The new certification program is designed to help small and mid-size growers, including greenhouse vegetable producers, comply with new food safety regulations.

Read More
Tropical Fruit Tree Selection (Hopkins Tropical Fruit Nursery)

April 7, 2016

University Of Florida Research Shows Consumers Value Lo…

Compared to conventional plants, consumers reported a higher purchasing likelihood for certified organic or organically produced fruit plants.

Read More
Congressional Action Days 2016

April 5, 2016

Floral Industry Leaders Make Progress And (In Some Case…

Nearly 90 floral industry members gathered in the nation’s capital in March to meet with lawmakers in the annual event coordinated by the Society of American Florists.

Read More
Casey Houweling, owner of Houweling's Tomatoes

April 4, 2016

Houweling’s Tomatoes Grows Produce With Mastery Under G…

Houweling’s Tomatoes, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s Excellence in Vegetable Production award for 2015, exceeds industry standards for locally grown produce while pioneering innovative technologies that improve sustainability.

Read More
Student Video Horticulture Education

April 2, 2016

Use Videos Featuring Your Millennial Employees To Recru…

Your Millennial employees may be the best spokespeople you have for your business. Why not encourage them to make a 30-second video talking about why they got into horticulture?

Read More
Random Acts Of Flowers

March 31, 2016

The Floriculture Industry Needs A Unified Message To Pr…

Seeing the sneak preview of the new varieties that will be presented at California Spring Trials (CAST) spurs a visceral reaction in me. I’m giddy and excited about these gorgeous plants, having taken in some of their beauty and excellent performance already at Costa Farms’ Season Premier. I’m excited to travel to Spring Trials and that spring is coming, and I’m ready to dig in and get gardening. I’m guessing many of you feel the same way. And it’s likely that consumers do, too. Nearly a year ago, upon returning from California Spring Trials, I lamented the absence of ideas translated from CAST to retail. The beautiful displays, the breathtaking combinations, the clever marketing — somehow, all of that effort and enthusiasm focused on business-to-business promotion is not being funneled effectively to the consumer. As an industry, we are not good at working together to market our products in a clear, […]

Read More
Sakata Seed America President David Armstrong

March 30, 2016

Sakata Signs Agreement With Indonesian Government To Co…

This week, Sakata Seed Corp. announced internationally that it has signed an agreement with the Republic of Indonesia to cooperate in the further development and production of its line of SunPatiens interspecific hybrid impatiens, based on the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Under an agreement based on the CBD, Sakata Seed has worked with the Indonesian government since the early 2000s to identify the origin of the native germplasm collected in Indonesia to develop SunPatiens, and the two parties have agreed on how the indigenous genetic resources will be used for the further development of SunPatiens. There are currently only a few cases in the world of such an agreement, based on the CBD in the category of horticultural plants, made between a resource-rich country and a commercial seed company. Greenhouse Grower contacted Sakata Seed CEO David Armstrong to provide context about this agreement, what it means […]

Read More
One symptom of Botrytis blight is gray, fuzzy sporulation on foliage and flowers, similar to that shown on the flower of this hibiscus

March 25, 2016

American Floral Endowment Will Fund Research Projects A…

AFE’s primary research funding priorities cover everything from pest control to production management. Funding applications are due June 1.

Read More
NGI-SunPatiens-Compact-Hot-Coral-Sakata

March 23, 2016

P. Allen Smith Says SunPatiens Are Hero Plants For Cons…

Plants that ensure consumer success with disease resistance bred into their genetics, and ease of use in a variety of conditions, are heroes for gardeners, especially beginners, and they should be celebrated and supported to promote gardening success and interest. These are the messages the award-winning designer, gardening, and lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith wants the horticulture industry to know, with the recent announcement of his expanded partnership with Sakata Seed. In an exclusive interview with Greenhouse Grower, P. Allen Smith describes his expanded partnership with Sakata Seed to promote SunPatiens and why the now 10-year-old series helps both novice and expert gardeners to be successful. Smith also collaborates with Sakata to promote the HomeGrown Collection of vegetables. SunPatiens Set Consumers Up For Success, Smith Says As a plantsman first, Smith has extensively trialed SunPatiens in his gardens at Moss Mountain Farm in Little Rock, AR, and says he is […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]