Smart Marketing Tops TPIE Agenda

Smart Marketing Tops TPIE Agenda

Health and beauty go hand in hand. The ability and importance of marketing and selling products that promote both was one of the main takeaways from the 2009 Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) last week at the Broward County Convention Center in Ft. Lauderdale.

“Tag It Tropical” was this year’s show theme for the annual industry gathering, which is known for a trade-show floor with aisle upon aisle of awe-inducing colorful foliage. The three-day event presented by the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association dedicated a healthy portion of its conference programming to inspire attendees to look beyond a plant’s form, and focus more on its function.

To Your Health

There is plenty of research to back the benefits of plants. The ability to help produce the very air we breathe should be enough reason to want plants around at all times. Over the years, these kinds of studies and information have provided plenty of fodder for growers and garden-center retailers to market their product.

General session speaker Jim Bouchard of Dynamic Components of Personal Power LLC, listed his top 5 reasons plants are essential during his presentation. All the reasons revolved around various sources of plant/health findings.

5. Plants can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder;
4. Plants clean the air;
3. Plants help improve productivity;
2. Plants help reaction time;
1. Without plants, you’ll die.

While taking his point to an extreme, Bouchard’s message was well taken by attendees that there are ways to creatively and powerfully promote products. For example, last June, Costa Farms conceived its successful O2 For You: Plants With A Purpose program. The public-service message is designed to spread awareness of the dangers of indoor air pollution and educate about the health benefits of having plants in the home and at work. Their booth contained product and signage relating to that message.

“Marketing can be a powerful tool,” Bouchard said.

Studying Up

The National Foliage Foundation (NFF) reception held at the close of the show on Friday was used as a stage to discuss new information about how plants can be used as a solution to indoor air pollution. Bodie Pennisi, associate professor of horticulture from the University of Georgia, discussed a two-pronged study (“Project Carbon”) funded by the NFF that would be of interest to those who grow and sell plants for a living. The first phase, which was conducted this past year, focused on phytoremediation–the process of de-polluting contaminated air using tropical plants in a controlled environment.

“We felt like we needed some new research using some of the new analytical techniques to kind of fine tune and pinpoint some of the new plants and find out how much of those chemicals are being removed,” Pennisi said. Data showed that members of the Aracaceae family performed much better compared to members of the Aroid family. “That was one botanical generalization we can make,” Pennisi said.

The second phase of the study is measuring the ability of plants to assimilate indoor carbon in uncontrolled environments. Pennisi and fellow researchers plan to visit various interiorscape sites that have good light (hospital lobby), medium light (office building lobby), and low light (lawyer’s office), and measure the photosynthetic rates and respiration of the plants at different canopy levels. This data will be used to determine how much carbon there is in a particular interiorscape site.

“I do hope we can remedy the situation with this kind of research that we are doing to prove substantially to the industry but also the world at large that they need to incorporate plants as part of the sustainable agriculture,” Pennisi said.

The interim report is scheduled to be completed by July 1, and a final report is expected near the end of the year.

Latest And Greatest

In addition to the informative conference sessions and demonstrations, attendees had plenty to peruse by way of new products and plants. Attendees cast their vote for their favorite new plants and products. This year’s winners included: Favorite New Flowering Plant: Sun Parasol ‘Stars Ans Stripes’from Suntory/Sun-Fire Nurseries (; Favorite New Foliage Plant: Neoregelia ‘Voodoo Doll’ from Oglesby Plants International (; and Favorite New Product: the Orchid Bloom Bag from Palm Tree Packaging (

Other new plants and products drew some attention as well. Robert Hendrickson of the Garden Center Group presented the 2009 Retail Choice Award winners during the annual Garden Center of America’s (GCA) networking breakfast. The awards are handed out to show exhibitors featuring a list of “can’t miss” retail items.

“For a retailer at heart, there are some wonderful things,” Hendrickson said.

Based on judging, the following companies received 2009 Retailer Choice Awards:
* Agri-Starts: Colocasia esculenta ‘Tea Cup’ (
* Agri-Starts 3: Aloe humilis ‘Hedgehog’ (
* BDK Marketing: Biodegradeable signage/display (
* Braun Horticulture: New Pottery Studio Collection hand-made black clay pottery with a natural moss coating (
* Bromeliad Specialties: air plants display using glass props (
* Cravo: Retractable roofs for greenhouse retail areas (
* DeLeon’s Bromelieads: Phalaenopsis Miniature Moments series–mini orchids (
* Excelsa Gardens: Ananas comosus ‘Ivory Coast’ pineapple (
* Green Piece Wire Art: Exotic topiary ferns (
* Pride Garden Products: New patio display merchandiser (
* Whistling Pines Foliage: Custom dish-garden liners ranging in size from 6 to 14 inches (

TPIE 2010 is scheduled for Jan. 14-16 in Ft. Lauderdale. For more information, visit

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