Closing The Loop

Last month I came home from the California Pack Trials impressed with how proactive and integrated our supply chain has become. We’re doing a much better job anticipating what the marketplace needs and presenting solutions that will make the next season better. We’re setting ourselves up for success. Here are examples of solutions that are making an impact to enhance profits and generate more demand for plants. 

GROWERS

I was impressed with how fast John Henry and MasterTag developed comprehensive solutions in sustainable packaging. I like that they are offering growers choices in eco-friendly materials in varying shades of green. Five materials from John Henry include recycled plastic, bioplastic from corn and plant material, wood fiber and biodegradable, renewable materials. All have been tested for how long they hold up to the elements outdoors. MasterTag also offers customizable options in biodegradable and recycled plastic materials.

Throughout the trials, we saw an array of options in biodegradable/compostable pots and ways to merchandise Ellepots and Fertiss pots in cardboard six packs. We expect Ball’s Circle of Life rice hull pot in the gallon size to be in demand, as well. Proven Winners’ Ready, Set, Grow biodegradable combo pot liner should be a hit with consumers.

Plug Connection is creating a new opportunity for growers to produce its Organiks herb and vegetable line for a national network serving Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and independent garden centers. Plug Connection will assist growers with the organic certification process, too.

Flower breeders continue to offer growers a choice in inputs. Ball/PanAmerican Seed introduced the first large-flowered purslane series and a ruellia series from seed. Three German breeder-producers – Selecta, Dümmen and Westhoff – are taking labor and guesswork out of combination plantings by sticking three different cuttings into one liner.

On the technical support side, Paul Ecke Ranch has made a significant investment in online resources that have been well received by growers and Goldsmith’s in-person tech support representatives have helped growers with their production systems. 

RETAILERS

Busloads of growers and big-box buyers really had their act together and were focused at the trials. For some flower breeders, it was the third time presenting the new introductions to this group. Pack Trials no longer is the beginning of the process. Commitments were being finalized. This is good because late decision making used to be the biggest problem for growers and their suppliers scrambling to execute national programs.

The Disney and Weather Channel concepts we saw were perfect for large retailers and beginning on a regional basis. We saw a lot of retail vignettes that would be ideal for boutique independents. Proven Winners’ new Color Craze endcaps and the redesigned Simply Beautiful retail presentation are also best suited to independent garden centers. 

CONSUMERS

The most amazing news was that Proven Winners is tripling its consumer impressions to 1 billion this spring through more mainstream, lifestyle-focused television and magazine advertising. Trying to fathom that, Proven Winners partner Tom Smith of Four Star Greenhouse says, "That’s 10,000 stadiums full of 100,000 people!"

Proven Winners’ Marketing Director Marshall Dirks has done an effective job engaging consumers on a regular basis, seeking their opinions on all new marketing and design decisions while finding out more about their habits and interests. This spring, more than 115,000 consumers called an 800 number to request Proven Winners’ "Idea Book."

There’s no question that Proven Winners is breaking new ground and making an impact. Ball is following a similar path with its Wave petunias and fan club. As a grower, there has never been a better time to get behind these products and programs. 

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