Prior to the mid-1990s the bedding plant industry was driven by minimal SKUs, mostly evolving around opening price points. A few items, like geraniums and New Guinea impatiens, commanded premium prices, but 90 percent of live goods were sold as basic items, mostly as multiple unit packs like 606s, 1204s and 804s. In the hanging basket category, 90 percent of the market was a 10-inch basic SKU with seed-grown items.
In the ‘90s, Wave petunias and the Proven Winners brands were launched and today are the No. 1 and No. 2 plant brands. These brands led to our industry’s understanding of marketing, both to the grower and the consumer. The industry now touts a number of brands exhibiting varying levels of success but there is no doubt plant brands are now an integral part of our business. Here is a rundown on the most recognized plant brands.
Wave: Ranking No. 1 in sales units nationally, Wave is one of the most, if not the most profitable brand, because of high perceived value, huge consumer demand and low input costs. It also has arguably the most recognizable packaging.
Proven Winners: Largely sold at independent garden centers, Proven Winners has also become an important brand for The Home Depot. It is widely promoted to the consumer through multiple media formats.
Viva: A house brand of The Home Depot, Viva is used to introduce new and unusual premium annuals and perennials.
Vigoro: Another Home Depot brand that fits the “better” pricing element of its good-better-best pricing strategy.
Garden Club Select: A Lowe’s house brand that has been the retailer’s main vehicle for selling premium annual and perennials, the Lowe’s philosophy has been that its name is the brand it wants to sell, not a plant brand. But that is changing with the 2014 launch of the Monrovia line of annuals.
Better Homes And Gardens: Sold exclusively at Walmart, Better Homes And Gardens offers a national brand at much lower prices relative to other plant brands. We understand this concept has been hugely successful. It has nice packaging and great recipes from The Dümmen Group.
HGTV: This year was the first full launch for this nationally known brand with a lot of success. The retailers we interviewed were more than pleased with the results. It is arguably the most comprehensive brand program with unique offerings, good packaging and labeling and very compelling POS materials backed by great annuals from The Dümmen Group. HGTV will also launch a shrub program supplied by Ball Ornamentals. Keep your eye on this brand.
Miracle Gro (Syngenta Flowers): In May 2013, Syngenta Flowers test marketed a brand under the Miracle Gro name in the Chicago market. Plants were sold at retail for $6.98, and were primarily seed and vegetative items in 5-inch Miracle Gro branded pots with generic labeling. They also offered a 12-inch basket of Calliope geraniums at $19.98. Time will tell, but it will be difficult to sell a generic 5-inch at this price point. The brand comes with a consumer guarantee with a 100 percent refund.
Monrovia Annuals and Perennials: In 2014, Lowe’s will launch a Monrovia branded annual and perennial line alongside its shrub program already in place. It seems as though this line may replace the Garden Club Select program.
Bonnie Plants: This national vegetable brand appears in all three national retailers and many regional retailers with very little competition. This is surprising, as the edibles category is the fastest-growing of all green goods.
Burpee Home Gardens: We have seen a limited number of Burpee Plants in the national retailers, and mostly on a regional basis. It’s much more pervasive at independent garden centers.
Backyard Fresh: A new entry in 2013 we observed at all the Lowe’s in Southern California is appearing to displace other programs. Designed and produced by Altman Plants, this seems to be a competitively priced brand that will resonate with the consumer with a wide product offering and really nice POS materials.
Shrubs: The New Branding Frontier
Knock Out Roses: Knock Out may be the most revolutionary product in this industry since the Wave petunia launch. It is seen in 98 percent of the 5,000 garden centers we visited in the past six years. The problem now is its supply is quickly exceeding demand.
Drift Roses: Positioned as a groundcover rose with some popular colors not available in the Knock Out series, it seems that Drift has the potential to continue the growth amassed by the Knock Out brand. The problem we see is in the packaging. In most cases, Drift is packaged in the same lime-colored pot as Knock Out, making it hard to recognize at the point of purchase. If Drift can’t create its own identity, its growth potential will slow dramatically.
The Bailey Brands: Bailey Nurseries was one of the first to develop branded shrubs when it launched the very successful Endless Summer hydrangeas. The nursery has expanded the line with new and interesting forms like ‘Twist ‘n’ Shout,’ ‘Blushing Bride’ and ‘Bella Anna.’ It also launched a line of soil additives to allow the consumer to manipulate the color: Color Me Pink is a bottled lime product that helps maintain the pink coloration and Color Me Blue is a sulphur product to maintain blue color.
Easy Elegance Roses: A collection of shrub roses that was bred for ease of growing, Easy Elegance from Bailey has become a consumer success, featuring a two-year consumer guarantee. Plants are trialed in 20 different locations.
First Edition: Bailey’s brand vehicle for introducing its newest and most unique products, First Edition is exclusive to independent retailers.
Proven Winners Color Choice: Spring Meadow Nurseries has more than 200 Proven Winners shrub varieties with a focus on low maintenance and compact performance backed by aggressive consumer marketing. Color Choice is available at independent garden centers and some national retailers through a network of growers who sell and distribute to the retailers in their region.
Ball Ornamentals: Ball has developed a unique shrub business by acquiring licensed varieties from breeders around the world, and offering these varieties in an open distribution model. Ball has set up a network of propagators that has no restrictions on to whom they can sell. It is not interested in developing a brand, but rather in providing high-performance genetics to the shrub growers across North America. Ball Ornamentals was selected as the exclusive supplier for the HGTV brand.
Southern Living Plant Brand: This line of shrubs is seen in small quantities around the Southeast but has not yet made a significant impact like Proven Winners, Monrovia and the Bailey brands.
Sunset Plant Brand: Launched in California this past spring, the Sunset Plant brand is shipped to the home centers on wooden racks with really nice POS signage; however, the signage was partially hidden by the plant canopy. The Sunset name has a lot of consumer credibility but now it is all about grower and retailer performance.
Branding Inspires Sales And Growth
Brands have created a lot of value in the green goods sector and will continue to be an important element of plant marketing. Brands that have a positive impact on the entire supply chain are clearly what we need and want going forward. Brands like Wave, which allow the entire supply chain to extract value while proving a high performance product that leads to consumer success, will be the most successful.