Big Opportunity In Edibles

Big Opportunity In Edibles 

Between the economic downturn facing the country and the desire of the consumer to obtain fresh produce that has not been tainted with chemicals, the edibles category has become the fastest growing sector of the green goods industry.

According to the National Gardening Association (NGA), 31 percent of all U.S. households (36 million) participated in some form of edibles gardening in 2008. And 43 million households planned to do some kind of edibles gardening in 2009–a whopping 19 percent increase. No other sector of green goods can claim anything close to these numbers. In fact, some would argue most categories are flat to declining. And it seems logical the 2010 edibles figures, along with the figures to come, will continue to show strong growth.

Although these numbers are impressive, it was apparent this spring there were a limited number of bedding plant growers participating in the growth of edibles. The dominant provider of vegetables to the national retailers is Bonnie Plant Farm, which serves all three national retailers coast to coast with minimal involvement from local growers. There are, however, some new programs and players entering the category, and this will bring more innovation and creativity to this fast-growing category.

Big Edibles Picture

While Bonnie Plants dominates, there are new entries like the Lowe’s “Grow Your Own” brand that is arguably the most extensive edible program. Plus, there’s Burpee Home Gardens. You would expect with Burpee’s consumer awareness and brand recognition, it will become a significant factor in the category.

There are also a few regional programs that are interesting and have a lot of potential. Chef Jeff’s, a regional brand sold only to independent garden centers, has some of the best packaging and POS materials, plus a good consumer website at ChefJeff.com.

In the Northwest, Smith Gardens developed two vegetable and herb brands that are organically grown: earthe and growe. Both have excellent packaging, labeling and POS materials.

Another organic branded program is Organiks from the Plug Connection in California. It seems to be more prevalent on the West Coast, although it has been seen at Pike Nursery locations in the Atlanta market.

New for the 2011 season is a Proven Selections program called Tasty Treats, a line of vegetables and herbs in a 288 plug tray sold as a 252 tray. The program has an extensive line of high-quality POS materials. The line is positioned as the best performing varieties that are the tastiest. Expect to see a lot of activity if highly promoted by the Proven Winners group.

More Than Herbs & Veggies

The edibles category is rapidly evolving into a broad spectrum that includes dwarf fruit trees, berries and items like onion sets, potato eyes and dormant strawberries. An area of edibles that seems to be somewhat untapped is the container sector and, according to NGA, 48 percent of all households have reported growing edibles in containers.

There seems to be a growing interest in berries, with many more blueberries, blackberries and raspberries appearing on retail shelves the last two seasons. One notable company that is a leading breeder of berries is Fall Creek Nursery. It’s developing dwarf berry plants that can flourish in a container or in the ground with attractive flowers, foliage and colorful canes.

Where’s The Money?

With annuals and perennials suffering from little to no growth, the edible category presents many opportunities for sales growth and is a highly profitable sector with increasing demand. When reviewing the current retail price points, it becomes clear there is little resistance to premium prices from the consumer as evidenced by the number of 1-gallon vegetables sold at $5 to $7 at the national retailers–and even higher at independent garden centers.

Consumers who live in urban areas often purchase one to three plants because of space limitations and seem to have little concern for the price point. After all, they will spend more on the container, soil, trellis and fertilizer.

Container gardening is a large sector in the edibles category, with 48 percent of consumers reporting they participated in container gardening of edibles. We all get excited about creating flowering container gardens and spend a lot of time trying to create the right recipes, but there seems to be little emphasis on creating compelling edibles containers.

There are many opportunities relative to creating compelling and profitable edibles containers, and it does not have to be a complicated process. Take for instance a 10-inch patio pot with one tomato and trailing annuals around the perimeter. This combination of edibles and annuals could help make very enticing displays at the point of purchase. What about adding marigolds that are perceived to be insect deterrents? Or planting a hanging basket with dwarf tomatoes and edge it with verbena?

Floranova has developed this incredible line of dwarf vegetables under the brand Vegetalis. Its vegetables are ideal for hanging baskets, mixed patio pots or used as individual varieties in small patio containers. With these types of varieties, low-cost, high-margin containers could easily be created. Imagine the sell-through potential with some really cool dwarf vegetables in a 7- or 8-inch container under $10 retail. There are some real opportunities in both patio edibles and mixing flowers and edibles.

Great Margins

In an environment of shrinking margins and flat demand, the edibles category is an area of growth and a category of some of the highest gross margins in a grower’s product portfolio. Considering the cost of perishable inputs, what other category has lower input costs?

Consider the difference between a 4.5-inch vegetative annual from an unrooted cutting (URC) with a grower cost of 25 cents with an average selling price of $3.98 retail. Compare that to a 4.5-inch vegetable from seed with a 3-cent grower cost and a $3.48 cost at retail, assuming the same grow times for each. A 10-inch patio pot with four URCs costing $1 compared to the same container with one tomato seed costing 3 cents clearly shows vegetables present great opportunities for increased margins.

The vegetables category is growing fast and brings in new gardeners. Now is the time to take advantage of the opportunities while giving consumers what they want.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

January 15, 2018

Missouri Greenhouse Grower John Tomasovic Dies

The patriarch of Tomasovic Greenhouses & Nursery, Inc. in Des Peres, MO, was a legend in the plant industry, and widely involved in many associations.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Perennials Icon Louis Stacy Dies

The founder of the former Stacy's Greenhouses in York, SC, passed away on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

January 9, 2018

AmericanHort Launches New Video Series on Profit Margin Management

This week, AmericanHort is kicking off a four-part video series that offers perspectives on managing profit margins from AmericanHort’s Chief Economist, Dr. Charlie Hall.

Read More
Latest Stories

January 15, 2018

Missouri Greenhouse Grower John Tomasovic Dies

The patriarch of Tomasovic Greenhouses & Nursery, Inc. in Des Peres, MO, was a legend in the plant industry, and widely involved in many associations.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Perennials Icon Louis Stacy Dies

The founder of the former Stacy's Greenhouses in York, SC, passed away on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

January 9, 2018

AmericanHort Launches New Video Series on Profit Margin…

This week, AmericanHort is kicking off a four-part video series that offers perspectives on managing profit margins from AmericanHort’s Chief Economist, Dr. Charlie Hall.

Read More
Tax-Money

January 9, 2018

What You Need to Know About the New Tax Bill

The United Fresh Produce Association, which represents the needs and interests of fruit and vegetable growers, recently updated its members on how the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act might affect their businesses. Many of the insights provided by United Fresh also apply to greenhouse growers and nurseries.

Read More
Doug Cole, Owner of D.S. Cole Growers

January 4, 2018

D.S. Cole Growers Blazes Its Own Path to Growth

Known for its commitment to sustainability and innovation, this grower is one of the pioneering trailblazers changing the way horticulture does business.

Read More

December 31, 2017

Ag Exemption for New Trucking Regulation Still Under Re…

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s trucking electronic logging device mandate, which took effect on December 18, includes an Hours of Service exemption that may or may not apply to greenhouses and nurseries.

Read More
Tillandsia Air Plants (Plantiflor)

December 15, 2017

Bonsall Nursery Devastated By California Wildfire

Rainforest Flora lost its main greenhouses and outdoor growing property in the Lilac Fire in San Diego.

Read More

December 9, 2017

Southern California Wildfires Narrowly Miss Most Grower…

Here’s an update on horticulture businesses in the areas affected by the California wildfires.

Read More

December 5, 2017

Skagit Horticulture Builds New, Inclusive Business With…

By merging two large-scale producers, Skagit Gardens and Northwest Horticulture, the new company has realized its strengths through focused divisions that emphasize efficiency and success.

Read More

December 4, 2017

Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants Debuts as Roberta’s Finali…

On December 1, Eric Wallien of Roberta’s Inc. in Waldron, IN, officially purchased C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI. The new identity of the company is now Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants, according to a Dec. 1 letter to Raker’s customers, suppliers, and business partners from Vice President Susie Raker-Zimmerman. “There have been minimal changes in management and we will be providing the same products and services on which we have built our reputation in the industry,” Raker-Zimmerman said in the letter, which also announced the name change and new logo. The sale of C. Raker & Sons was announced in September . A series of events affecting Raker’s financial situation caused the need for the operation to find an alternate solution. Roberta’s had been a customer of Raker’s since 2011, and the fourth generation, family owned grower-retailer was a fan of Raker’s commitment to quality. The agreement to purchase C. […]

Read More

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitabilit…

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More
Willoway Nurseries Team

October 1, 2017

How Willoway Nurseries Gets Its Staff Engaged in The Co…

Willoway Nurseries in Avon, OH, is creating a culture with people who think, act, and feel like owners. Learn how its team is taking the business to the next level.

Read More

September 21, 2017

Horticulture Is All About Connections

The beauty of our industry is that we are more than willing to reach out and help those around us. What connections can you make today to help your business, and what can you offer to help another grower?

Read More
Worker taking cuttings at Vivero Internacional.

September 11, 2017

Vivero Internacional Elevates Clean Cuttings to New Hei…

One of the last independent cutting operations, this fast-growing company raises the standard for delivering clean, high-quality unrooted cuttings.

Read More
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

September 5, 2017

C. Raker & Sons Acquired By Roberta’s Unique Garden…

Ownership will change hands in December, and Raker will supply young plants for the 2018 season. Beyond that, leadership of the two operations say they are excited to move forward with a partnership that will continue to supply the industry, and gardeners, with top-quality plants.

Read More

August 1, 2017

MPS Honors D.S. Cole Growers for 10 Years of Sustainabi…

At Cultivate’17, a ceremony to mark a 10-year milestone since D.S. Cole Growers became involved with More Profitable Sustainability (MPS), as the first U.S. grower to achieve MPS certification, took owner Doug Cole by surprise. Separate celebrations also recognized Metrolina Greenhouses and Dümmen Orange for achieving MPS certification.

Read More
Nexus greenhouse construction for Knox Cannabis Facility

July 27, 2017

Ornamental Growers Will Revolutionize Cannabis Industry…

Professional growers have much to offer the emerging cannabis market, according to the co-owner of Knox Medical, one of the licensed cannabis producers in Florida.

Read More
Ball ColorLink logo

July 11, 2017

Get Guidance on Running Your Business from Ball ColorLi…

Representatives from Ball ColorLink will be on-hand at Cultivate’17 to answer questions and present business-building tools and industry insights to growers.

Read More