Big Opportunity In Edibles

Big Opportunity In Edibles 

Between the economic downturn facing the country and the desire of the consumer to obtain fresh produce that has not been tainted with chemicals, the edibles category has become the fastest growing sector of the green goods industry.

According to the National Gardening Association (NGA), 31 percent of all U.S. households (36 million) participated in some form of edibles gardening in 2008. And 43 million households planned to do some kind of edibles gardening in 2009–a whopping 19 percent increase. No other sector of green goods can claim anything close to these numbers. In fact, some would argue most categories are flat to declining. And it seems logical the 2010 edibles figures, along with the figures to come, will continue to show strong growth.

Although these numbers are impressive, it was apparent this spring there were a limited number of bedding plant growers participating in the growth of edibles. The dominant provider of vegetables to the national retailers is Bonnie Plant Farm, which serves all three national retailers coast to coast with minimal involvement from local growers. There are, however, some new programs and players entering the category, and this will bring more innovation and creativity to this fast-growing category.

Big Edibles Picture

While Bonnie Plants dominates, there are new entries like the Lowe’s “Grow Your Own” brand that is arguably the most extensive edible program. Plus, there’s Burpee Home Gardens. You would expect with Burpee’s consumer awareness and brand recognition, it will become a significant factor in the category.

There are also a few regional programs that are interesting and have a lot of potential. Chef Jeff’s, a regional brand sold only to independent garden centers, has some of the best packaging and POS materials, plus a good consumer website at ChefJeff.com.

In the Northwest, Smith Gardens developed two vegetable and herb brands that are organically grown: earthe and growe. Both have excellent packaging, labeling and POS materials.

Another organic branded program is Organiks from the Plug Connection in California. It seems to be more prevalent on the West Coast, although it has been seen at Pike Nursery locations in the Atlanta market.

New for the 2011 season is a Proven Selections program called Tasty Treats, a line of vegetables and herbs in a 288 plug tray sold as a 252 tray. The program has an extensive line of high-quality POS materials. The line is positioned as the best performing varieties that are the tastiest. Expect to see a lot of activity if highly promoted by the Proven Winners group.

More Than Herbs & Veggies

The edibles category is rapidly evolving into a broad spectrum that includes dwarf fruit trees, berries and items like onion sets, potato eyes and dormant strawberries. An area of edibles that seems to be somewhat untapped is the container sector and, according to NGA, 48 percent of all households have reported growing edibles in containers.

There seems to be a growing interest in berries, with many more blueberries, blackberries and raspberries appearing on retail shelves the last two seasons. One notable company that is a leading breeder of berries is Fall Creek Nursery. It’s developing dwarf berry plants that can flourish in a container or in the ground with attractive flowers, foliage and colorful canes.

Where’s The Money?

With annuals and perennials suffering from little to no growth, the edible category presents many opportunities for sales growth and is a highly profitable sector with increasing demand. When reviewing the current retail price points, it becomes clear there is little resistance to premium prices from the consumer as evidenced by the number of 1-gallon vegetables sold at $5 to $7 at the national retailers–and even higher at independent garden centers.

Consumers who live in urban areas often purchase one to three plants because of space limitations and seem to have little concern for the price point. After all, they will spend more on the container, soil, trellis and fertilizer.

Container gardening is a large sector in the edibles category, with 48 percent of consumers reporting they participated in container gardening of edibles. We all get excited about creating flowering container gardens and spend a lot of time trying to create the right recipes, but there seems to be little emphasis on creating compelling edibles containers.

There are many opportunities relative to creating compelling and profitable edibles containers, and it does not have to be a complicated process. Take for instance a 10-inch patio pot with one tomato and trailing annuals around the perimeter. This combination of edibles and annuals could help make very enticing displays at the point of purchase. What about adding marigolds that are perceived to be insect deterrents? Or planting a hanging basket with dwarf tomatoes and edge it with verbena?

Floranova has developed this incredible line of dwarf vegetables under the brand Vegetalis. Its vegetables are ideal for hanging baskets, mixed patio pots or used as individual varieties in small patio containers. With these types of varieties, low-cost, high-margin containers could easily be created. Imagine the sell-through potential with some really cool dwarf vegetables in a 7- or 8-inch container under $10 retail. There are some real opportunities in both patio edibles and mixing flowers and edibles.

Great Margins

In an environment of shrinking margins and flat demand, the edibles category is an area of growth and a category of some of the highest gross margins in a grower’s product portfolio. Considering the cost of perishable inputs, what other category has lower input costs?

Consider the difference between a 4.5-inch vegetative annual from an unrooted cutting (URC) with a grower cost of 25 cents with an average selling price of $3.98 retail. Compare that to a 4.5-inch vegetable from seed with a 3-cent grower cost and a $3.48 cost at retail, assuming the same grow times for each. A 10-inch patio pot with four URCs costing $1 compared to the same container with one tomato seed costing 3 cents clearly shows vegetables present great opportunities for increased margins.

The vegetables category is growing fast and brings in new gardeners. Now is the time to take advantage of the opportunities while giving consumers what they want.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

April 11, 2017

Jerry Halamuda of Color Spot Nurseries Retires

The co-founder of Color Spot Nurseries has retired, effective immediately, and has named a replacement.

Read More

March 21, 2017

How Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Can Prepare for a Product Recall

The United Fresh Produce Association is holding a Recall Ready Workshop in April that is designed to help growers properly manage a recall, from liability to communications.

Read More

March 14, 2017

Expanded Customer Footprint, E-Commerce, Succession Key Aspects of Delray Plants Purchase by Costa Farms

Costa Farms' acquisition of indoor foliage producer Delray Plants rocked the industry, but the story behind Delray Plants' sale is the same as for many growers struggling with succession planning. For Costa Farms, the strategic purchase expands its customer footprint and also fast tracks its foray into e-commerce.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 11, 2017

Jerry Halamuda of Color Spot Nurseries Retires

The co-founder of Color Spot Nurseries has retired, effective immediately, and has named a replacement.

Read More

March 21, 2017

How Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Can Prepare for a Prod…

The United Fresh Produce Association is holding a Recall Ready Workshop in April that is designed to help growers properly manage a recall, from liability to communications.

Read More

March 14, 2017

Expanded Customer Footprint, E-Commerce, Succession Key…

Costa Farms' acquisition of indoor foliage producer Delray Plants rocked the industry, but the story behind Delray Plants' sale is the same as for many growers struggling with succession planning. For Costa Farms, the strategic purchase expands its customer footprint and also fast tracks its foray into e-commerce.

Read More

March 10, 2017

Costa Farms Expands With Purchase of Indoor Houseplant …

Costa Farms annnounced March 10 that it has acquired Delray Plants, one of the leaders in the indoor houseplant industry. The two operations are committed to the same values, principles, and goals to grow the industry, and will fit well together to accomplish this, say Randy Gilde, CEO of Delray Plants, and Joche Smith, CEO of Costa Farms.

Read More
Ken and Deena Altman

March 7, 2017

Altman Plants in Escrow to Purchase EuroAmerican Propag…

Ken Altman, a co-owner of Altman Plants based in Vista, CA, has confirmed that the operation is currently in escrow to purchase EuroAmerican Propagators, the Bonsall, CA-based young plant and finished plant grower that filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on Jan. 23, 2017. Ken and Deena Altman are co-owners of Altman Plants and The Plug Connection, along with their son Matthew, who has recently bought into the family business. The 55 acres of land and all of the facilities on it, which were previously owned by Jerry Church, a partner in EuroAmerican Propagators, are part of the purchase agreement currently in escrow, Altman says. However, it would not be absorbed by Altman Plants, which in 2016 was number 3 on Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers list with more than 11 million square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse production, 62 acres of shade production, and 400 acres of outdoor field production. Altman Plants’ property […]

Read More
EuroAmerican Propagators Greenhouses

February 14, 2017

Suppliers Comment on Plant Genetics’ Fate After EuroAme…

Since the operation’s bankruptcy filing on January 23, 2017, suppliers associated with EuroAmerican Propagators have updated Greenhouse Grower on what the operation’s bankruptcy means for them – and how it will impact grower customers.

Read More
Stephanie Whitehouse

January 17, 2017

Stephanie Whitehouse Takes Her Passion for Plants to Di…

Stephanie Whitehouse, who has spent the last seven years as the Sales and Marketing Director for Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, PA, recently joined Dickman Farms Greenhouse and Garden Center in Auburn, NY, as the company’s new Retail General Manager.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig…

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses Shipping

October 6, 2016

Greenhouse Shipping Costs Down, But Concerns Remain

Lower gas prices have led to lower shipping costs for some growers, but many continue to seek out ways to become more efficient.

Read More
Pansy ‘Cool Wave Blue Skies’ (Wave)

September 20, 2016

PanAmerican Seed Settles Alleged Trade Sanction Violati…

PanAmerican Seed, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., has been charged with violating trade sanctions to Iran over a number of years. According to a release from the U.S. Treasury department, PanAmerican Seed made 48 indirect sales of seeds to two Iranian distributors. The company shipped the seed to consignees based in countries in Europe and the Middle East. PanAmerican Seed’s customers then arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran. The release states that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) determined PanAmerican Seed did not voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations to OFAC, constituting an egregious case. “We believe that the settlement was extreme; however the alternative was to litigate with the U.S. government, which would take months, if not years,” says Todd Billings, Chief Financial Officer for Ball Horticultural Co. When asked what Ball Horticultural Co. has done to ensure that violations to trade sanctions do not […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challeng…

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More
Cavicchio Greenhouses

September 6, 2016

Cavicchio Greenhouses Wins Inaugural Sustainability Awa…

The Sudbury, MA, growing operation sustains more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials, and nursery stock, with a number of practices to mitigate its impact on the environment.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

September 6, 2016

10 Insights From Charlie Hall’s Green Industry Economic…

With the uncertain current economic climate, Texas A&M economist Charlie Hall says now may be the perfect time to invest — as long as you do it smartly.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More