Orange Is The New Green: An Interview With Dümmen Orange’s Kate Santos

Orange Is The New Green: An Interview With Dümmen Orange’s Kate Santos

DummenOrangeThe day the news came out about the name change of DNA Green Group to Dümmen Orange, and everything that meant for the large flower breeding conglomerate, Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff talked with Dümmen Orange Operations Manager Kate Santos about what the identity shift would mean for the company, its customers and ultimately for consumers.

What’s going to happen to the brands and what was behind the decision to do away with those brands and consolidate?

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A key objective for our organization in moving to one corporate brand is to continue to stay true to the heritage and history of the individual brands that have made us what we are today and what we will build the future of our company upon. For this reason, some of those brands that have a deep-rooted history and much more recognition within the market, will have a longer persistence in our overall portfolio before transitioning fully to Dümmen Orange. The transition process will be tiered and it will vary, depending on the market globally. For example, Europe may have some brands that are going to persist longer there than they will in North America because their recognition in Europe is at a higher level than it is in North America. For North America, the brands that have phased out immediately are brands like Bartels and Oro. The brands of Ecke, Oglevee, Fides and Red Fox will persist in a transition period for the next year or two, and the market will slowly start to see that the brands will have a little more of a color, tone and feel of the Dümmen Orange Collection, and they will have reference to their former brands beneath the variety names before slowly transitioning away from the brand. For the first year, for example, our catalog of annuals will be a combination of our Red Fox portfolio, our Oglevee portfolio, what was our Oro portfolio and our Ecke annuals portfolio, all into one main annuals catalog. The series and variety level will give indication of the brands that they were a part of, so there is still that connection as we transition through this for customers to reference.

What was behind the decision to rebrand the group?

The decision came from a couple of different areas. First, when defining the company to a customer or to a new employee, it was becoming much more complicated to explain the overall organization and goals. We were managing our corporate identity in DNA Green Group, our cut flower entity in AgriBio and our bedding plant entity in the Dümmen Group. Very quickly, it became complicated to explain the overall organization, stepping through each of these levels. We recognized that in order to make our products first and foremost, we needed to make things clearer, more streamlined and consequently easier, both for our employees to talk about our products and offerings, and also to make it easier for our customers, by consolidating catalogs, and centralizing ourselves into one company website. We’ll break out our catalogs by product category to annuals, perennials, poinsettias and potted plants. One of our company values is tied into our customers and our hope is this new organization classifies the products toward what the customer needs, which should make our program much easier to navigate for them in ordering.

Do want to communicate anything to the die-hard customers of the older brands, like Ecke and Oglevee, about the change and the eventual dissolution of those brands?

One of the most insightful things that came out of this process was when we asked ourselves about what was behind our new name to what our values are and what our heritage was. For us as an organization, the brand names tie us to the incredible heritage they built in the industry and will be something that we will always be proud of and also something that we will recognize and acknowledge. When you go to our new corporate website and see the timeline feature, all of those brands and that heritage is very much something that we are going to recognize, acknowledge and not forget, moving forward. They are very much the backbone of the organization and will continue to be what we build upon, so from an overall product standpoint, they will persist.

The breeders and developers of many of these product classes will also continue to persist. For example, Ruth Kobayashi has been the breeder for Ecke poinsettias for about 20 years now, and she is still working very hard to ensure the overall products that customers know and love in the Ecke porfolio will continue to be developed and bred and selected by, in our opinion, one of the leading breeders in poinsettias. What she has coming through the pipeline is very exciting, and it’s going to continue to redefine what we think of when we see poinsettias. That Ecke heritage is still being carried on, through people like Ruth and other people in the organization. You will find a similar scenario within Fides and each of the other product categories. The people and teams are still here, and are very much still tied to the heritage and the product quality that we continue to strive to deliver. They’re not going to go away, and we’re going to continue to focus and work on products that meet and exceed our customer needs.

So why Orange? What does the color represent for Dümmen?

The color represents for us, heritage, and specifically our organization’s Dutch heritage. A very strong part of our organization is tied to the Netherlands, and orange is a very important color for the Dutch culture, and therefore it was a color that we felt was an important tie to the organization. In combination with the name Dümmen, which is the family name of the organization that built the Red Fox brand, we also have a connection with Orange and the Dutch members of our teams that have contributed toward building where we are today. The combination of the two, Dümmen Orange, ties our past to our future.

Also, from a color standpoint globally, orange is very vibrant, evocative and culturally significant, so those three things tie in quite well to where we want to take the company moving forward.

Dummen_build your own Confetti Garden packsHow will Dümmen Orange be represented to growers, retailers and ultimately to consumers? What will the new brand mean for each of these groups?

Dümmen Orange will be represented in a very similar way to how Dümmen Group has been represented in North America. It will be the umbrella to which the products that we bring to the market are supported. For growers, that will be the collection of products and within the Dümmen Orange Collection, you have your annuals, perennials and potted products. That’s how they will interact with the brand. It will have now a much more global reach, in terms of how now Dümmen Orange North America represents our team, and we will also have a team in Europe that will also depict the same Dümmen Orange look and feel, creating a lot more consistency in our brand identity across the globe.

Similarly to retailers, instead of having the brands, we’ll slowly move directly to the product groups. Product series will all stay the same, so for retailers and growers who are very familiar with names like Potunia, Prestige and Confetti Garden, those are going to continue to go strong through this change and well into the future. Finally, for consumers, their interaction at the product and variety level will not change at all.

When can we expect to see the full rollout of the brand?

We have launched the corporate website, and from a corporate standpoint, the initial launch of the brand is complete. The website will be very representative of our rollout in terms of brand values of the organization, our history and heritage, where we’re going, what products are coming through the pipeline and what events are coming up across the world. We really want to make it a streamlined but very seamless process. We don’t want to move anything too quickly, to avoid people losing connectivity with where a particular variety or series came from. In North America, you can really expect to see a great display of the brand and the product portfolio and how will all be pulled together at Cultivate’15 in July. That’s certainly something for the industry and people making the trip to Columbus, which is also our hometown for Dümmen Orange, and we’re really looking forward to being able to introduce the industry to our new identity in person.

In the video on DümmenOrange.com, there was an emphasis on people, plants and social responsibility, so how is Dümmen Orange going to address the different areas of importance and responsibility within your company?

We defined five values within our organization that we currently feel represent us now and what we are striving toward:

Passionate Purpose – Passion lives in every moment and every detail of our work. That’s something that we’re really proud of and that we want to continue to build. The people on our teams really love what they do. We want to unite under that, in the people aspect and care of our planet, in a really strong way.

That comes in different forms, like the Dümmen Orange Takes Care initiative, which is providing fair wages and safe environment for our employees, including schooling and onsite medical care. To when we look at our teams, the overall average career duration within the company is 10 years, so that ties back to how much people care about what they do, who they work for and the organizations that they support. We also want our teams internally to recognize the organizations they work with and work for, and what they represent. To the overall process that we’re working on at all of our farms – the MPS certifications, like we have in El Salvador and Ethiopia. We’re still continuing to work on sustainable initiatives to make sure that all of our farms are leading in those areas.

The Fair Trade effort that we’ve started in Europe, with our poinsettias coming out of Ethiopia that are Red Fox, is consumer-facing but something we’re looking into for North America.There are also other initiatives that we are looking at, existing ones that we want to continue to improve and also potentially new initiatives that focus on standards and our people.

Inspiring Confidence – We want to make sure that in everything we do, we’re doing our business honestly, transparently and reliably so we are inspiring confidence in one another, as well as in our relationships with our customers. We have a lot of experience. All the heritage that we’ve brought together adds up to over a century of history that we pride ourselves in. For example, taking from the Red Fox side, the True Grower Guarantee program creates confidence that customers will get what they order and not have to deal with substitutions. That’s something we’re going to continue to build upon.

Boundless Solutions – This is about focusing on the customer, and that takes many forms for us, whether it’s the broker, grower, retailers or end user consumer customers. We want to take the time to focus on and tailor our solutions to the particular needs of our customers. That is a very strong initiative for us, moving forward. We are really focusing how to support specific accounts in a more tailored way. Everybody is a little bit different and we understand and want to continue to build upon delivering solutions that make sense for each of our customers.

Evolving Excellence – We can always improve and we strive every day do a little bit better than the day before and continue to move the needle in ways that maybe we didn’t anticipate a month ago, but we now see the need for change, for improvement. That goes from leadership within the team to standards of excellence on growth and success. It ties into our production farms and our breeding – just really taking every aspect of our organization and saying, what can we do better? There are areas we have really focused on in the last couple of years and will continue to, and there are other areas we’re just starting to get involved in in more ways, like social media.

Empowering Expressions – When we think about what our industry does,  we as an industry sometimes lose sight of the extent that flowers play in our everyday life. People interact with flowers in so many different ways, whether it’s a symbol of beauty, given as a gift to say thank you or something to brighten up a home or office. Any time you give someone flowers, their response is so positive, whether it’s one plant or five, a liner or a truckload. We need to continue to try and capture what it is that the consumer at retail enjoys about interacting with plants, and remind them why they are attracted to flowers. This is something we want to continue to connect with and tie into, in ways that can elevate the overall recognition and understanding of our product groups. We want to tie the world together with the language of flowers and offering beautiful products.

We’re also really continuing to focus on keeping in touch with contemporaries in other industries, like fashion trends and the arts. The new look and feel within the organization has really tied into those high-end fashion, home décor and beauty trends, pushing people to think outside the box and drive innovation and change, while also anchoring ourselves in photography that represents our people and our process of what we do – to continue to tell our story.

Each of these values represent areas that we’re really focusing on and we will continue to build on each, which is exciting to be a part of.

How will the new brand affect production for North America? Will it change anything in terms of where growers order their live inputs?

Not significantly. There are a few product classes that have moved from one farm to another but more from an efficiency standpoint. What it will ultimately do is help streamline things for the farms. For example, Oro (historically a brand and a farm) will now become part of our production network of farms, like those in  El Salvador and in Africa, and that will improve efficiencies and focus for that particular farm. Now when products are ordered, it’s all tied to the production farms rather than brands. That helps from a boxing standpoint, whereas before farms were managing different brands and having to box them and use different logos. That’s all getting streamlined under Dümmen Orange, which now simplifies the packaging and shipping process.

Moving forward, Dümmen Orange will still have third party genetics as part of our portfolio, and that will be noted in the catalog. You’ll be able to see that we still do feature third party breeders in our overall assortment.

Tell us about the tagline – “Dümmen Orange for you.”

That’s something we all resoundingly gravitated toward internally, and at the end of the day, it’s very simple but very powerful for us as a company to get behind. You’ll see this used in different aspects of our marketing and communications, but it also forms that undercurrent of what we’re striving to do – to focus on what we can do for our customers in all aspects of our organization.