Perspective: Sakata’s Ron Cramer

With a 30-year tenure at Paul Ecke Ranch before directing Sakata’s marketing activities on the cuttings side, Ron Cramer offers a unique perspective in bringing innovative varieties to market globally. At Ecke Ranch, Cramer managed licensing activities in Europe and Asia, working directly with breeders like Sakata and Kientzler in vegetative annuals, while also managing poinsettia propagation licensing abroad. Sakata has a long history of introducing innovative genetics in both seed and cuttings. Noteworthy recent introductions include Profusion zinnias and Kong coleus from seed and SunPatiens and SuperCal petchoas from cuttings.

GG: What is the role of the independent breeder in today’s globally more consolidated and vertically integrated marketplace?

RC: While of course some independent breeders like Sakata have relatively broad assortments, they are able to devote more resources to creating totally new categories like xPetchoa (SuperCal and Calitunia) or SunPatiens since they do not have to use breeding resources to maintain an “A to Z” offering to support an integrated organization. Also, the commodity crops offered by independents give growers additional options to the proprietary offerings of the integrated programs, which do today carry competitive lines.

GG: Are there fundamental differences between North America and Europe or Asia in how breeders approach the market?

RC: There are, but I believe it often has more to do with the market structure in these areas than a completely independently developed strategy for that market. For example, Sakata is completely vertically integrated in Japan to the point of our own retail garden center, packet seed business, mail order, etc. So naturally, we approach that market much differently than Europe or North America. Likewise, in North America, there are large retailers covering the entire market. It’s different from Europe, where a Pan-European retailer really doesn’t exist in our industry. The integrated players also have different levels of strength when considering Asia, Europe and North America. This also has to be considered by independents when choosing how to approach the market and which alignments to consider.

GG: When does it make sense for an independent breeder to be more visible with a product or more behind the scenes as a distribution partner runs with the product?

RC: When the product is either a commodity crop or one well known to growers, then a new series or form can more easily be introduced and managed through a distribution partner with a lower profile for the breeder. However, when it is a new category or specialty crop where production protocols and consumer uses are not well known, it can make sense for the breeder to adopt a more “hands-on” approach to guide and shape the message at all levels.

GG: Would you say creating innovative products that perform is the most important role of an independent breeder?

RC: Yes. Of course it’s important for all breeders, but more so for the independents because it gives them an edge to get the attention of the market and the integrated systems. Performance has to be good at all levels, not just in the garden for the consumer. Of course in the end that is necessary, but if innovation doesn’t involve solving grower’s problems producing it and getting it through distribution in good shape, the consumer will never have a real chance to evaluate it. When breeders create this, the market is there, waiting.

GG: How are some of the newer crops changing the rules on what constitutes a spring crop versus a fall crop? Are we seeing a greater emphasis on plants that will make it through three seasons until hard frost?

RC: I personally don’t really believe the broader market wants pansies that will last from Valentine’s Day to Labor Day, as an example. However, with the rapid growth of commercial and municipal landscaping and increasing focus on green cities and buildings, there is a segment where plants that can be strikingly attractive and/or functional for three seasons make a lot of sense. I think this is a trend that will continue.

GG: What opportunities are there for independent breeders to engage and build relationships with growers, retailers and consumers?

RC: With all the modern communication tools available, there are many practical opportunities. It’s also absolutely necessary. If breeders don’t understand the needs, problems, wishes for growers, retailers and consumers, it will be difficult to design effective breeding programs and define the correct selection criteria that will result in products that meet these expectations. For example growers need “turn-key” products, even new products. With today’s pressure on margins at every level no one can afford to “learn as you go”.   If a breeder doesn’t engage and build adequate relationships with growers this technical exchange won’t be possible or effective.

GG: How is new technology playing a role in customer relationships?

RC: I think this is pretty universal and Horticulture is no exception.  The ability to use Webinars, interactive websites, social media, the basically “tuned-in, wireless” nature of most in our business these days makes it so much easier to communicate and share information in a cost effective yet relationship-building way.  Most of us have not really been successful using technology to create more free time for ourselves, so when suppliers can provide product support in an efficient and effective way, customers recognize and appreciate that and it strengthens the relationship.

Leave a Reply

More From State of the Industry...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

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
Latest Stories
HRI logo

April 8, 2015

Horticultural Research Institute Accepting Scholarship …

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) is offering seven scholarships for the 2015-2016 school year, totaling $20,000. Applications will be accepted through May 31.

Read More
protecting bees and pollinators video

March 31, 2015

New Video On Protecting Bees And Pollinators Educates H…

A new educational video that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship is one result of industry collaboration by the Horticultural Research Institute, AmericanHort, Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment. “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” narrates the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy pollinator ecosystems.

Read More

March 25, 2015

NASS Reports U.S. Honey Production Was Up By 19 Percent…

Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013, according to a March 20 report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s…

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

February 2, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State Of The In…

The Greenhouse Grower 2015 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons on 2014 sales to past years, details on how 2015 production volume and prices will compare to 2014, crops that growers will increase and decrease production on, where growers stand on using neonicotinoids on crops, how many growers will pursue growing medical marijuana and more.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Benchmarks: Let’s Change Our Story

It's a new year. Time for our industry to change how consumers perceive plants by creating a new reality where plants are valued for more than their physical beauty.

Read More

January 21, 2015

AFE Wins Platinum MarCom Award For “Murder, Sex a…

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) took home its fourth award for the animated awareness video "Murder, Sex and Greed." The organization also recently announced that there are two new members on its board of trustees.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 19, 2015

2015 State Of The Industry: Current Green Industry Tren…

Demand for green industry products and services is forecasted to increase in coming years as the housing market rebounds.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Terra Nigra Joins DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group will be expanding its range of cut flowers by incorporating Terra Nigra, a company specializing in breeding and propagation of gerberas and roses.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Florensis Receives Horticultural Entrepreneur Award

During the January 7, 2015 award ceremony in the Keukenhof, in Lisse, Netherlands, Florensis received the Horticultural Entrepreneur Award. Florensis was one of four nominated companies, which also included Arcadia BV, Artemis and Martens Asperges.

Read More

January 9, 2015

AmericanHort Celebrates Its First Birthday

AmericanHort was formally launched one year ago on January 1, 2014, and the association is celebrating numerous successes of the first year.

Read More
Carol Miller

January 7, 2015

We’re All In This Together

Growers and retailers have a common goal — to serve customers better. In this new column, Greenhouse Grower will take a look at ways growers and retailers can work together to take advantage of profit opportunities and better meet customer needs.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Industry Speaks Out Against “Waters Of The U.S.” Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule change to the Clean Water Act, known as “waters of the U.S.,” has the potential to disrupt normal business practices for growers across the country.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Students Tackle Real-Life Challenges At National FFA Fl…

Top prize winners put skills learned in the classroom to the test at the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Floriculture Career Development Event.

Read More
Lesley Judd

January 7, 2015

2014 Meister Scholarship Awarded To Ph.D Student

The Richard T. Meister Scholarship was awarded to Lesley Judd, a graduate student with a passion for horticulture and a desire to pass her knowledge along through teaching.

Read More

January 6, 2015

39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium Will Be Febr…

The Professional Gardener Alumni Association (PGAA) will hold the 39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium program will be on February 6, 2015 from 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. in the Ballroom at Longwood Gardens, and will feature an array of engaging speakers.

Read More
Shawn McBurney

January 6, 2015

Society Of American Florists Hires New Lobbyist

Shawn McBurney joined the Society of American Florists' (SAF) staff starting January 5 as the new senior director of government relations.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

Growers Are Optimistic For A Strong Year In 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s State Of The Industry survey reveals that growers are being cautious about the inputs they use, and they’re worried about input costs and regulation, but enthusiastic about the rebounding economy.

Read More