Some categories of plants have been around for a really long time. So long, in fact, that they can become associated with phrases like “old-fashioned,” or “out of date.” That doesn’t mean they aren’t excellent plants — that’s probably one of the reasons they’ve been around so long. But consumers like to buy things that are new, different and trendy.
So how do you make something that people take for granted new and interesting again? Sometimes it is with new genetics. And sometimes it is through marketing — creating a story around the plant and a reason to buy it. We talked to Liz Hunt, senior market manager, vegetative, for Syngenta Flowers, about its new Zenia mum collection, which uses both breeding and marketing to revitalize the category.
GG: Do you see working with growers and retailers to re-package older categories as a growing trend in the industry?
Hunt: Syngenta has been giving this question some thought. Sometimes the horticulture industry looks at other markets for trends, like the produce section of the grocery store. I grew up with Clementine oranges, but now my son doesn’t know what a Clementine is. He knows what a Cutie is. Clementines have been re-categorized as a whole new product.
Another example from our industry is combinations, like the Kwik Kombos. We’ve taken products that people know and are packaging them differently to get them in front of consumers. It’s certainly a way to reposition and use something that works great and create a whole new household name.
GG: How do you get people excited again about older categories of plants?
Hunt: The audience, and in particular, this generation, is changing. So the improvements and changes in the genetics need to keep up with who our audience is and who the new consumer is.
Even in an older category like pot mums, the genetics are constantly changing. Incremental improvements over time make a big difference in the success of the consumer.
We have always planned to revitalize our assortment of pot mums. Over the years, mums have been perceived as a little bit more for Grandma, and we’ve gotten away from the pastel mum combos. If you look at all the designer trends in clothing and home decor, you just don’t see those colors. I’m seeing oranges, lime greens and hot pink — really intense colors, so we are selecting those colors in the mums as well.
GG: What qualities did each cultivar of mum need to be included in the Zenia collection?
Hunt: The new and unique is driving the whole mum program, and in particular the Zenia program. With Zenia we want to introduce a whole new class of mums. Fortunately, there is an amazing amount of flower variation that can be achieved, and we are privileged to have a breeder like Wendy Bergman who has an eye for the unique and different; she can recognize something that will spark consumer interest.
Zenia varieties need to have a unique and new flower form, bright designer colors and must work well in production. In particular, they don’t require special disbud techniques. They have similar response times and similar height treatment. They are all anemone forms of some kind, except for ‘Green Valley.’ You couldn’t do something like this and not have that chartreuse green color in it. If you look at everything in the program, some of the varieties don’t even look like mums anymore.
GG: How can you use a marketing message to give people a new perspective on a category like mums?
Hunt: Friends of mine who are not “plant people” said the mums I showed them had a zen feel to them, and I thought that was a cool way to think about it. Mums descend from Asian culture, so they fit with the idea. We also thought if we used a totally unique term for the collection, a “non-word” if you will, that it would appeal to the younger generation, many of whom like simplicity. For example, in home decor you are seeing the principles of feng shui and the simplicity of design from retailers like Ikea, so I think this idea will resonate.
We worked with John Henry Co. and told them we wanted an exotic look with an upscale Asian flair that matched the uniqueness of the genetics. They immediately understood, and carried that feel into the packaging and signage. Purple is very soothing, especially the shade they chose. We also incorporated the Chinese character for happiness and long life. The look of that symbol is very balanced, and its translation is exactly what we wanted for this product.
GG: What would you suggest to growers who are looking to reposition some of their older products?
Hunt: Look at the new genetics that come out in the market; many of these upgrades deliver great value to you and your customers. It’s easy to stick with what you know, but take advantage of some of the new advancements that are available from breeders. Work closely with your breeding partners to get them incorporated into your program.