Driving Sales & Value

Slideshow: Green Circle Growers

Well-established as a state-of-the-art production leader, Green Circle Growers in Oberlin, Ohio, remains on the cutting edge in a new era, partnering with retailers to drive sales and really zeroing in on what consumers are buying and their interests. This year marked its big entry into the phalaenopsis orchid market, with the first high volume shipments to stores in February for Valentine’s Day sales. Green Circle also continues to be a leader in green technologies and recently installed what may be the most modern biomass heating complex for a greenhouse operation in the United States.

Founded by John van Wingerden in 1968, Green Circle has grown to span 90 acres of greenhouse production, producing plugs and liners, bedding plants and potted plants year round. The retail customer base is a mix of regional, national and international chains, including mass merchandisers, home improvement centers, supermarkets, wholesale clubs and independent garden centers. Green Circle also is a plug and liner powerhouse serving growers through sister brokerage company Express Seed.

John’s eight children grew up in the greenhouse business and fondly recall mixing fun with work, like stacking bales of peat moss to build pyramids. In the last five years, they have assumed management roles. Eldest son David is a manager at sister company Express Seed after spending years managing production at Green Circle. Son-in-law Scott Giesbrecht is in charge of sales and marketing and activities serving retailers. CJ manages production operations at the entire facility. Jason handles procurement, purchasing and sourcing pots, baskets and value-added, home décor-style containers. Wesley manages operations for Plant 2, which includes Green Circle’s expanding orchid ranges. Daughter Abby is a sales analyst, working closely with Giesbrecht examining how products perform and sell through at retail.

Video: Follow the path of the conveyors that feed the wood-burning boilers at Green Circle with Dave Bring.

Today, Green Circle’s management is a mix of young, up-and-comers and seasoned veterans. “We get to build on a team that has been with us all these years,” CJ says. “We have managers who have been with us 30-plus years. Eighty percent of our top management team has been with us for at least 20 years, and we’re also bringing new blood in. In the early days, it was just my dad running the business and making the calls by himself. Now there’s a team out there working together to make things happen.”

As the business has grown, Green Circle has been creating a corporate culture while also retaining the qualities of a family business. “It’s necessary for the family to stay involved but also have a corporate culture to get things done,” Giesbrecht says. “We try to stay away from bureaucracy but create a structure so information flows. Our power is in our people.”

John credits the next generation with leading Green Circle to become a sales-driven organization. “For 30 years we were production driven. The last five to seven years we have become sales driven. That’s it in a nutshell,” he says. “Today we listen. Before we just produced what we wanted. Low-cost production is still foundational to satisfy our customer base, but we have to be focused on consumer satisfaction. It’s not just about pricing but the value we present.”

The paradigm shift for growers to become more sales driven has been the right one, Giesbrecht says. “When we were more production-driven, it led to dissatisfaction at the retail and consumer levels. We had a lack of responsibility to sell,” he explains. “Now that we’re sales driven, we have accountability to drive the sale all the way through. Our decisions are based on what consumers want. We’re driven by customer success. It sounds simple, but we’re not interested in growing something that doesn’t sell.”

Green Circle was one of the early embracers of pay-by-scan or vendor-managed inventory, John says. “Pay by scan is accountability and we love accountability,” he says. “We should know our product better than anybody else. Accountability is opportunity.”

Green Circle Growers

Owners: van Wingerden family

Location: Oberlin, Ohio

Size: 90 acres of greenhouses 

Crops: Bedding plants, blooming potted plants, plugs and liners

Markets: Finished plants to regional, national and international retail chains; plugs and liners through Express Seed

Websites: www.greencirclegrowers.com
www.JustAddIceOrchids.com
www.ExpressSeed.com

Revving Up Orchids

Speaking of opportunities, one of the most exciting ones has been bringing European-style potted orchid production to the United States and developing a marketing program to make orchids more accessible to the masses. “Orchids are the No. 1 value in potted plants anywhere in the world,” John says. “We’ve seen this in the European marketplace for many years. We decided to get into orchids with a European, first-class production facility.”

The varieties are phalaenopsis orchids from European tissue culture labs. Plants are finished cooler to be durable in any climate. Green Circle has an exclusive, full-time retainer with So Natural in Holland for production expertise and technical support. So Natural can view production in progress remotely, as well as data from Green Circle’s environmental controls.

Much attention is paid to how the orchid is grown, training the leaves to grow upright in a V shape for easier sleeving and handling and to get one third more plants on the greenhouse benches. Upright leaves also funnel water to the plants, reducing water shed and disease spread.

To be successful in orchids, there were three challenges to address:
    –Heating costs
    –Distribution logistics
    –Consumer confidence

To address heating costs, Green Circle has spent nearly $20 million on a state-of-the-art, six-boiler, biomass heating system. The primary fuel source is wood from local tree removal companies, but the furnaces could burn sawdust, rubber tire chips from tire disposal companies and other materials. Green Circle received a loan guarantee from USDA as part of this initiative.

Since Green Circle will be shipping the orchids to 48 states and Canada through produce distribution channels, it needed to find a five-day heating solution to protect the orchids. An employee discovered a solution used in the tropical fish industry, using heating elements and insulating packaging. The Green Circle team also followed orchid shipments through the chain to distribution warehouses to ensure orchids would arrive in a high-quality condition. 

Focusing On Consumer Success

Giesbrecht also enlisted Green Circle and Express Seed employees to develop the care and handling information on the large tags. “For five months, they had orchids on their desks with questions,” he says. “We were challenged to come up with 50 words that were meaningful and direct to communicate, so nothing would be misunderstood.”

John says consumer research showed the greatest concern for orchids was how to care for them. To address this fear factor and overcome the common problem of overwatering, Green Circle came up with the “Just Add Ice Orchid” slogan, inspired by John watering plants with ice cubes around the dinner table.

“This is a cool way to communicate the objective to the consumer instead of saying ‘water moderately,'” Giesbrechts says. The instructions are simple. Just adding three ice cubes once a week makes watering  simple. Consumers can even go online to sign up for a weekly watering reminder via email.

Just Add Ice Orchids is a joint venture with MidAmerican Growers, a van Wingerden operation in Illinois, which also is producing the orchids. Green Circle has hired a marketing firm to create a website, JustAddIceOrchids.com, which is a resource for consumers to get ideas, view photo galleries, share their experiences and have their questions answered directly by Green Circle’s experts with answers posted for all to see on a forum. As an additional reassurance, Green Circle’s green and sustainable practices are showcased.

This is Green Circle’s first comprehensive national marketing program for consumers. In addition to promotional packaging and the supporting website, Green Circle and MidAmerican have partnered with garden celebrity P. Allen Smith, who will showcase the orchids in his television shows, magazine articles, social media sites and Garden Home book series. He’ll also offer his easy care tips and ideas for decorating with orchids in retail point-of-purchase materials. The promotions will begin this holiday season.
“I’ve always loved orchids, and I’m excited to teach consumers that caring for them is easier than they imagined,” Smith says. “I know once people have success with an orchid in their homes, it’s just the beginning. People will want to adorn several rooms in their homes with their alluring beauty.”

Green Circle looks forward to expanding the Just Add Ice program to other key blooming potted plants and penetrating more types of retail outlets. “We’re intrigued by the opportunity to sell plants at new and different retail outlets that feature consumer demographics similar to those found in our category,” Giesbrecht says.

Embracing The Information Age

In addition to creating a website for Just Add Ice Orchids, Green Circle has launched a new website for both the trade and the public– greencirclegrowers.com. In addition to providing information and ideas supporting seasonal products, the website is an opportunity to promote Green Circle’s green and sustainable efforts, including recycling water and using energy curtains and alternative fuels to conserve energy and resources.

The most exciting aspect of digital technology is harnessing it to engage consumers on an individual basis. “Our goal is to have an accessible website for our key products,” Giesbrecht says. “The timing is great because our customers are working on it with social media like Twitter and Facebook that can be accessed by consumers. We are serving a more information-driven consumer.”

Retailers also are getting more precise in gathering purchase information from consumers. Instead of collecting broad information on annuals and perennials, retailers will soon be asking grower vendors to barcode plants by genus and color. This information is valuable in guiding future production and marketing decisions and also a goldmine for customizing consumer incentives, content and engagement based on purchases.

While many growers will view this new coding as a logistical nightmare on the inventory, labeling and shipping sides, Green Circle welcomes the challenge. “It will require organization and execution but it will be a great way to key in on what the consumer wants,” Giesbrecht says. “We have the benefit of having customers that can change industries and consumer habits. We should be energized and help them do this instead of being intimidated. We want to be the go-to grower bringing solutions.”

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Driving Sales & Value

  1. hello have nice time I from IRAN we can make the best vast and potter and pot for flower with suiable price and different size and color if you need you can send a mail it is honor for us that we can work toghter thanks of your kind 09188136182

More From ...
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Horticulture Priorities

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadlines Approaching

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 25, 2015

13 New Shrubs You’ll Find At The 2015 California Spring Trials

Woody ornamentals serve as the foundation of many great landscapes, but beyond their traditional uses, shrubs also add color, structure, texture and interest to small gardens and even containers. Check out this slideshow to see some of the newest introductions you’ll get to see at this year’s California Spring Trials.

Read More
Latest Stories
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Hor…

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 25, 2015

13 New Shrubs You’ll Find At The 2015 California …

Woody ornamentals serve as the foundation of many great landscapes, but beyond their traditional uses, shrubs also add color, structure, texture and interest to small gardens and even containers. Check out this slideshow to see some of the newest introductions you’ll get to see at this year’s California Spring Trials.

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
Bloomtown_Screen Shot 2015-03-10

March 24, 2015

Bloomtown Exposes Consumers To The World Of Horticultur…

A new web series called Bloomtown is all about the mud, sweat and tears of horticulture. Filmed in St. Louis, Mo., it chronicles the world of horticulture using local flower growers, greenhouses, wholesalers, florists, consumers, retail shops and arborists, with the goal of opening consumers’ eyes to the world of horticulture around them.

Read More
OxiPhos_BioSafe2

March 23, 2015

BioSafe Makes Label Changes To OxiPhos And ZeroTol 2.0

There have been some recent label changes made to the BioSafe Systems product OxiPhos, a systemic bactericide/fungicide that reduces downy mildew spores when tank mixed with ZeroTol 2.0.

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More
Nufarm_logo

March 23, 2015

Nufarm Fungicides Now Registered For Use On Edible Crop…

Nufarm Americas announced label expansions for two of its fungicides that will provide more pest management options for the ornamental industry. The Cleary 3336 F and EG fungicides are now registered for use across a wider range of edible crops, including select greenhouse vegetables and transplants, herbs and backyard fruit.

Read More

March 23, 2015

Update To Armitage’s Greatest Perennials & Annuals …

A new update to the Greatest Perennials & Annuals app narrows the gap between consumers and grower-retailers, while providing more of Armitage’s top picks and growing advice for success with plants.

Read More
Plantbid website screenshot

March 20, 2015

Plantbid Brings Open Sourcing To Greenhouse Growers

Plantbid bridges the gap between buyers and sellers for sales and marketing networking on their own terms. The web-based, plant-sourcing platform aims to save growers time and make the business of buying and selling plants more efficient.

Read More
National Floriculture Forum 2015 029

March 18, 2015

2015 National Floriculture Forum Focuses On Marketing I…

The 2015 National Floriculture Forum, held March 6 to 7 in Minneapolis, Minn., zeroed in on the topic of marketing in horticulture and included visits to Gertens Greenhouses and Garden Center, Bailey Nurseries, Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden and Tangletown Gardens. The annual meeting allows greenhouse and floriculture faculty, graduate students and industry partners to meet and share updates on current research, issues and initiatives.

Read More

March 18, 2015

H-2B Situation Goes From Bad To Even Worse

On March 5, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will no longer accept or process H-2B labor certifications or requests for H-2B prevailing wage determinations in light of a March 4 decision. Shortly after the DOL announcement, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Citizenship and Immigration Services followed suit, announcing it will at least temporarily cease approving visa petitions. These announcements essentially shut down the H-2B program for any company that has not completed the DHS H-2B visa petitioning process.

Read More
SAF CAD

March 18, 2015

Growers Ask For Immigration And Healthcare Reform Durin…

Nearly 90 growers, retailers, suppliers and wholesales attended the Society of American Florists' (SAF) 2015 Congressional Action Days March 9-10. The delegation, representing 18 states, arrived on Capitol Hill at a time when two major industry issues - immigration and healthcare reform - are especially prominent in national headlines.

Read More
2014 Poinsettia Season Report

March 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Seas…

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish. Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Survey received 143 responses from growers around the country. Here, you can download the complete results of the survey, by filling out the form.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer BloomStruck' from Bailey Nurseries

March 17, 2015

Michael Dirr Slated To Address Attendees At Hydrangeas …

Dr. Michael Dirr to deliver the keynote address at Hydrangeas 2015 conference, hosted by the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society in partnership with Endless Summer Hydrangeas. The conference will take place at the historic Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, Mass.

Read More
Bee on a Sedum

March 17, 2015

4 Key Pollinator Research Projects To Be Funded By Hort…

The Horticultural Research Institute will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read More

March 17, 2015

16 New Blooming Potted Plants You’ll See At The 2…

Blooming potted plants are perfect gift items, and they put the finishing touch on any style of home decor. So when new varieties come on the market, growers and retailers alike take note of plants they know are going to make consumers happy. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new blooming potted plants making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More