In With The New

In With The New

When Homestead-based Meristem Nursery’s Dennis Smythe decided to retire, he had 26 acres of product and land to parcel off. This past August, when Kraft Gardens owner Kevin Kraft heard about it, he bought a truckload of Smythe’s arborea, an old plant that is making a comeback. And Kraft had no trouble selling it to retail and landscape contractors. Two weeks later, a program was in place for Kraft to lease 11 acres of Smythe’s facility and purchase its remaining inventory. Kraft is currently cultivating three acres of arborea in seeds, liners and finish plants and will exhibit the plant at TPIE.

What is old is new again, and having the courage to jump on new introductions and ideas is a key strength of foliage innovator Kraft Gardens. New is a word Kraft uses a lot these days. With the acquisition of Meristem’s property, the company has formed a new location, Kraft Gardens Homestead, which will also devote extra acreage to finish plants for spring sales. Another new facility, this one in Fort Pierce called KG Orange, was created to grow the company. This new property allowed Kraft to become a major nursery stock supplier of Ficus of the Future, after a major Miami supplier sold its property to a landscaping company in October 2005. Kraft jumped on the opening.

“We think it’s our responsibility to be a good supplier to our customers and there’s no one else out there supplying these products,” Kraft says. “There would be a huge void in the market if we didn’t do it and it’s worked out well. By next spring, we should have a really nice supply coming out.” The company plans to use KG Orange as the vehicle to grow its company even more, in higher volume of current pot sizes, a wider variety of pot sizes and new varieties.

In 2007, Kraft Gardens’ 60th anniversary year, ground will be broken on 450,000 square feet of additional greenhouses. To keep up with the competitive and changing market, Kraft Gardens has solicited a consultant in lean manufacturing to generate production improvement and solve the challenges of staying competitive.

“We’re already starting to see some nice improvements,” Kraft says. 

Marketing Know-How

Kraft Gardens focuses heavily on marketing, and not just through brochures and catalogs. Much of the way Kraft Gardens represents itself to its customers is derived from the company’s business philosophy: service the customer, listen to what he has to say and provide a good, quality product. They’re the ideals that Kraft’s father, Bert Kraft, was guided by when he started the business in 1947. It starts with the sales force.

“With a lot of other growers, 90 percent of their product is sold through a broker,” Kraft says. “We sell a lot directly and our sales staff helps customers directly. We’re the link between the breeders and the end user. Our job is to help bring the breeder’s product to the consumer, get feedback on how they like it and get that feedback to the vendor.”

Research and development is also done with the feedback of a select group of interiorscapers and retailers, who let Kraft know which exclusive new plants work and which don’t. This information helps improve Kraft’s growing methods or it can be sent back to the breeder. Kraft Gardens’ plant tags are made in house, to control the number printed and the story the tag tells about its Professional Grade Plants brand.

“Indoor green plants have very little marketing support behind them, in general,” says Kraft Gardens’ Sales Manager Alex Fell. “Our brand means what it says, that it’s a professional grade product. The growing management is perfect. The quality ingredients are there.” A consumer’s success with one plant can be marketing in itself.

“They’re going to buy more and they’re going to tell their friends about it,” Fell says. “Not with the old adage, ‘Don’t make it too good or they’re never going to replace it.’ That’s a silly adage. We’re thinking that if your customer is successful, you’ll be successful.”

Expanding Product Line

Young plant producers and travel drive many new introductions at Kraft. The new varieties are first tested with a controlled group of garden center and interior landscaping customers.

“Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it will sell,” Kraft says. “We think it not only has to be new, but improved, better or different in a way that is better for the consumer. The ones that seem to be the long haulers that go the distance. We’re looking for long haulers.”

This year at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE), Kraft Gardens will display two silver pothos–’Silver Satin’ and the new ‘Silver Splash.’ The company is trialing one or two new products every month and different shapes and forms are always being experimented with, so there are always plenty of new introductions in the pipeline.

Customer Satisfaction

For Kraft Gardens, customer satisfaction doesn’t only mean providing the widest foliage variety. It goes back to Bert Kraft’s ideals, servicing the customer, listening to the customer and providing a quality product. Kevin Kraft says he continues that tradition through a management team that understands those goals.

“We run our company as a team. It’s not top-down management,” Kraft says. “With a good team that understands our customers and works for the best service for that customer, we don’t send out plants with bugs. If we say a plant is four feet, it’s going to be four feet. We want to have that customer satisfaction.”

Kraft’s customers do recognize the value the company brings to the industry. Kraft Gardens has won garden center alliance ECGC’s Award of Distinction in 2003 and 2005, awarded for excellence in product and service.

“Kraft Gardens scored the highest on all our criteria, product quality and customer service,” says Kathy Scott, foliage purchasing director for ECGC. “We feel that Kraft Gardens is the leader in the foliage industry for many reasons. They are committed to high quality standards and introducing plants that are successful for our customers. Kevin Kraft is a true asset to this industry. He is innovative, he has trained a customer-oriented staff and most of all he is always willing to listen to his customers.”

Kraft Gardens

Owner: Kevin Kraft
Founded: 1947
Size: 1.1 million square feet of covered production, 250,000 square feet of field production
Locations: Homestead, Fla. and two locations in Fort Pierce
Main Crops: Indoor plants–ficus, palms, schefflera, aglaonema, dracaena.
Market: Interior landscapers and independent garden centers
Web Site: www.kraftgardens.com

With a father that helped found TPIE, Kevin Kraft was almost pre-ordained to find a role on the TPIE Committee says Ben Bolusky, FNGLA executive vice president. Kraft served as TPIE chairman in 1991 and played a key role in moving the show to its larger Fort Lauderdale home. Kevin also helped the National Foliage Foundation increase its funds past the $1 million mark as the organization’s president. His dedication to the industry won him the 2006 Wendell Butler Award, FNGLA’s most prestigious honor.

“Kevin continues the family tradition established by his parents of setting standards of business excellence, standards of leadership and service back to the industry he loves,” says Bolusky. And there is a bright future for that industry, Kraft says.

“I don’t see why people wouldn’t want to have plants in their homes. People still have pets, right? Why wouldn’t they have plants?”

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Status of Marijuana US Map May 2015

May 29, 2015

Marijuana Legalization Updates

As of April 2015, 23 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some capacity. At the federal level, several bills are currently awaiting action. Here is an update on current state and federal marijuana legislation across the U.S.

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

May 29, 2015

Making The Decision To Produce Medical Marijuana

Should horticultural growers consider cultivating medical marijuana? That’s up to the individual grower, of course, and certainly a number of growers already have jumped in. We at Meister Media Worldwide, publishers of Greenhouse Grower and American Vegetable Grower, do not necessarily endorse nor oppose the production of medical marijuana. But we do feel it is an option worth exploring. We intend our “Medical Marijuana” series of articles to give you information you need to make your own call. We hope you find it useful, and we do welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas as we continue to cover what we’re fairly certain is only going to be an increasingly viable and growing market for this emerging crop.

Read More
Double Whammy Merchandise Display At CAST2015

May 28, 2015

Grow Inspiration To Grow The Horticulture Industry

We need to work together as the horticulture industry to inspire and instruct consumers with our plant knowledge and marketing expertise.

Read More
Latest Stories
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save…

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More
people-of-Battlefield

May 13, 2015

Battlefield Farms Receives MPS-A Qualification

Battlefield Farms, Inc., in Rapidan, Va., has been awarded the MPS-A qualification after becoming a participant for MPS-ABC in 2010. After four years of showing effort and improvement, the company has been awarded the qualification.

Read More
Barry_Sturdivant_columnpic

May 8, 2015

How To Survive Succession Planning And Resolve Conflic…

If you work in agriculture, you most likely work with family-owned businesses. This is especially true within the greenhouse industry. I’m fortunate to work for a company that specializes in financing and supporting such businesses. Family-owned businesses often have a level of commitment and support that helps during lean times. This is important for a company exposed to seasonality and events that are sometimes beyond management’s control. Business owners and management are constantly looking for solutions to the unique issues faced by these small but complex businesses. Specifically, how these issues affect the transition from one generation to the next. There are many family enterprise success stories, cases of harmony, health and longevity. Yet it’s no secret that family businesses can struggle with governance, leadership transitions and even survival. According to the Family Business Institute, only 30 percent of family businesses last into the second generation, 12 percent remain viable […]

Read More

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Finan…

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Andy Huntington Pleasant View

April 29, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Promotes Andy Huntington to Natio…

Pleasant View Gardens recently announced that Andy Huntington will be the company’s National Sales Manager. Huntington, who has years of horticulture industry experience, will oversee national territory and inside sales departments, while fostering strong partnerships with customers. “Our relationships with customers are central to all that we do at Pleasant View,” Huntington says. “In my new role, I am excited to work with a broader base of broker, grower and retail partners to understand their business needs. Pleasant View’s goal is to be so in tune with our customers that we are able to anticipate their problems before they arise.” Huntington has a history of growing sales and forming long-lasting relationships with a diverse customer base. For the past two years, he has been working as a territory account manager for Pleasant View Gardens, responsible for young plant liner sales in New England and New York. Prior to that, Huntington was […]

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Syngenta logo

April 15, 2015

Syngenta Names Chris Freeman Senior Key Account Manager…

Chris Freeman is the new senior key account manager for Syngenta Flowers, Home & Garden's Commercial Sales business in the Americas, effective March 2015. Freeman, who joined Syngenta in 2006, carries more than 25 years of experience in the agriculture and floriculture business.

Read More
Lake Buchanan_LCRA

April 10, 2015

USDA Designates Areas Of West And Southwest As Drought …

The ongoing drought has resulted in disaster area designations in counties across nine Western and Southwestern states, including Texas, where some reservoirs are at or near historically low levels.

Read More

April 9, 2015

Altman Plants’ Online Cactus Shop Shows Strong Sa…

Altman Plants recently opened its new Cactus Shop, an online retail store that sells a variety of cactus and succulents. The store is a take-off of Altman’s original wholesale business, as the company started as a mail order catalog.

Read More
Dummen

April 8, 2015

Dümmen Group Welcomes Jim Devereux And Andrew Konicki T…

Dümmen group recently announced the addition of Jim Devereux and Andrew Konicki to its team. They are the newest members of the Key Account and Broker Support team for Dümmen, and will be responsible for building, developing and maintaining current broker and grower customer relationships.

Read More
Gov._Jerry_Brown_California

April 8, 2015

California Institutes First Ever Statewide Mandatory Wa…

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced April 1 that, for the first time in state history, action will be taken to implement mandatory water restrictions, with the ultimate goal of reducing water usage by 25 percent. As Californians are pushed to conserve more, growers will need to think about how demand for products will be affected.

Read More
DNA-logo

March 31, 2015

DNA Green Group Will Acquire Rijnplant

DNA Green Group and Riknplant have finalized DNA Green Group's acquisition of Rijnplant, meaning that the breeding and propagation activities in pot and cut anthurium, bougainvillea and heliconia will transfer to DNA Green Group.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

March 10, 2015

GrowIt! Mobile App Now Available For Android

The mobile app GrowIt! Garden Socially can now be used by gardeners with Android-based smartphones. Now available on the Google Play Market, GrowIt! helps users find plants to fit their lifestyle and connect them with other local gardeners.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and …

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Maryland Green Industry Associations Unite

The Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently announced that it is expanding its reach to include the greenhouse industry, meaning it has become The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA). The change comes as a result of the planned dissolution of the former Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association and the invitation for those members to join the existing and renamed association.

Read More