Proven Winners Is The 2012 Medal Of Excellence Industry Achievement Winner

Proven Winners Partners

Proven Winners didn’t invent the idea of a plant brand. There have been many other good ones before and since. But few — if any — have been as influential.

The 2012 winner of Greenhouse Grower’s Medal of Excellence Industry Achievement Award has introduced groundbreaking new varieties and taken consumer marketing to never-before-seen heights. In the process, it has built one of the few truly successful national plant brands in the history of our industry.

Now in its 20th year, this company has succeeded with a laser-like focus on great plants and great marketing, coupled with an absolute conviction that the Proven Winners way is the best way to sell plants.

Take a look at two decades of results. It’s hard to argue that they’re wrong.

From A Single Plant To A Brand

The seeds of Proven Winners were planted in 1991. The Kientzler Company’s Garry Grueber had a unique plant from Australia — Scaevola ‘Blue Wonder’ — and was looking for help distributing it in the U.S. He found willing partners in John Rader and Evelyn Weidner of Weidner’s Gardens in Encinitas, Calif.

After a year of successful sales regionally, Rader, Weidner and Grueber realized there was potential for the variety on a bigger scale, but they would need partners to expand to national distribution.

Tom and Sharon Smith, owners of Four Star Greenhouses in Michigan, and Henry and Jeff Huntington of Pleasant View Gardens in New Hampshire agreed to help. Rader soon partnered with Jerry Church to buy the propagation business from Weidner’s Gardens and formed EuroAmerican Propagators as the third partner. Proven Winners was born.

Plants For The Consumer

From the beginning, the partners agreed the Proven Winners brand would have two cornerstone qualities to differentiate it in the market.
The first was great plants. The Proven Winners brand would sell only the best quality, unique varieties that would have high value for consumers. Annuals were the primary focus for the first ten-plus years. Canadian partners Nordic Nurseries, Ed Sobkowich Greenhouses and Dentooms Greenhouse were brought in later in the 1990s. Proven Winners ColorChoice Flowering Shrubs were added in partnership with Spring Meadow Nursery in 2004. Walters Gardens was brought on board in 2010 to provide a selection of premium perennials under the Proven Winners brand.

The list of unique new introductions under the Proven Winners banner — from Superbells to Supertunia to Diamond Frost to Snow Princess — is long and familiar. But for all of these lines, top garden performance quality was the top priority.

“The partners said, ‘We’re going to take the best plants available from plant breeders. We’re going to trial them for two to three years. And we’re going to introduce the best varieties as Proven Winners.’ That was the model,” says Proven Winners Director of Marketing Marshall Dirks.

Four Star, EuroAmerican, and Pleasant View have been leaders in developing new propagation techniques, implementing university research in areas such as quicker liner production and faster finishing times for growers. Plants are propagated from mother stock derived from aseptic tissue culture to offer the cleanest selections possible.

Even with this focus of providing the best possible starts for growers, plants are selected for the brand based on garden performance that consumers will respond to, instead of the more traditional grower-focused input traits.
According to Dirks, many breeders have been typically focused on grower performance: uniform series, blooming times and growth habits — compact growers that looked good at retail.

“The partners realized, ‘That’s nice, but that’s not our customer. Our customer is the gardener. We need to introduce vigorous plants that will make her feel successful when she grows them.’ That was the key,” he says.

Building A Market

Proven Winners’ second cornerstone quality was great marketing, specifically, great marketing that speaks directly to consumers.
“Our initial marketing was to the industry,” says Mark Broxon, Proven Winners executive director. “In 2001, as our sales reached a critical mass, true consumer marketing began. And once that began, we have kept our foot on the accelerator — which has also been good for the industry as a whole.”

To pay for consumer marketing, plants are sold with a marketing fee. Those dollars provide the resources needed to build awareness and create demand.

“People had collected royalties in the past, but no one had collected a marketing fee. That was unique to Proven Winners,” Dirks says.
The Proven Winners tag was an important innovation as well. The partners determined early on that a large, branded plant tag would accompany every Proven Winners plant.

“From the beginning it was our number-one form of POP,” Dirks says. “The tag was more than 6-inches tall, double the size of the typical tag at the time. It was groundbreaking.”

Those distinctive white containers were a significant development as well, making their first appearance in 2002. Containers were round rather than square to create a premium look and offered an eye-catching pop of white in a garden center full of other colors. Index printing was developed to allow the logo to go in the same place on the container every time, directly under the tag slot. The brand also took a lesson from grocery store shelves and created patented containers that spin in their trays to ensure the logo and the tag always face forward.

Influencing An Industry

From wonderful new varieties to groundbreaking marketing concepts, Proven Winners has built one of the most recognizable and respected brands in the market. Its annual roadshows educate growers and retailers on the brand’s genetics and how to best grow them. It works closely with retailers, offering certified training programs as well as detailed advice on store layout and merchandising.

But, in many ways, the company has made contributions that have benefitted the entire greenhouse industry.

“I think our biggest impact has been to make gardening a better experience for consumers while creating value for the industry,” Broxon says. “We work closely with growers and retailers, but it is the consumer that ultimately buys our plants from those growers and retailers.”
With today’s consumer more time-starved and overwhelmed with choices than ever before, making it easier for them with a known brand and better plants has been the right way to go, Broxon says.

“No other company trials plant varieties to the extent that we do — after breeders have already made their selections — to ensure that our plants provide the highest level of consumer performance. And our investment in consumer marketing benefits the entire industry by bringing consumers into garden centers not only to find Proven Winners plants, but to experience gardening in general. Gardening is a great lifestyle; we believe in this industry and want people to enjoy gardening — and be successful — which keeps them as customers for us all.”

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “Proven Winners Is The 2012 Medal Of Excellence Industry Achievement Winner

  1. It is true that Proven Winners has changed the face of the Industry. But I for one find it a change for the worse. I have worked in the industry for 17 years and have come to avoid most Proven Winners at all costs. First, let me explain that I consider myself a novice Plantsman. With an Associates Degree in Horticulture from a Community College and a Grower of Tropical Plants I know something about plants. The entire Marketing/Branding of Proven Winners immediately put me off. Overnight, every Nursery and Garden center had the hideous, blatant displays. Advertising as far as the eye could see. Everytime I did encounter a Proven Winners Plant that I found new and interesting, upon asking about it, I received a Sales Pitch for Proven Winners Potting Medium, Proven Winners Fertilizers, but not one person knew what the plant was or how to grow it properly, other than quoting me verbatim what was printed on the tag. Proven Winners said they were going to sell to the Industry only and NOT the Big Box Stores….we all know how long that took. And so they have gone from being a plant supplier to a Capitalist Conglomerate. Looking at the price of the Plants, plus the cost of Tags, plus the cost of the pots…it has come to Nurseries and Garden Centers selling 4 1/2" pots for $6 – $7 dollars at some places. Outrageous. With no disrespect to Proven Winners, I personally wish they would go the way of Etera.

  2. When you are on top you will always have haters no matter what you do to try to make everyone happy. Just look at sports teams. I just would like to thank the thousands of customers we have at wholesale and retail that have supported us. Most importantly the consumers who will soon experience close to 2,000,000,000 plants. If someone looked into a crystal ball 20 years ago and predicted that our industry would be selling fewer flats of petunias at what is as low as $7 a flat in my area but selling a single pot of a Petunia for as much as $7 a pot as Kyle points out we would all be saying "Your crazy" Quoting a good friend of mine Bob Steinlage "I would rather be getting shot at than the one doing the shooting. Thanks again to Greenhouse Grower and all the others who have seen our vision to improve the industry. Tom Smith Partner Proven Winners.

  3. As it is time to order for the spring/summer 2013 season, I am still fuming over a Proven Winners incident last year. I grow annuals and perennials for a municipality with large parks and large public gardens. I was going to order some Seniorita Rosalita plugs last year, which I have grown in years past, and was told I had to buy pots and tags with every plug. No exceptions. Our budget has been slashed huge amounts in the last 5 years and the thought of having to pay for plastic pots and large tags when I am not in a retail business, in this day and age, is ridiculous. I appealed to Proven Winners explaining that we are not in the business of selling plants, we only grow for public viewing. But they turned me down. I like the plants, but in this day and age of recycling, waste not want not, budget cuts, labor cuts, I refuse to be bullied in to growing a plant and paying for plastic pots when I already have plenty of plastic pots. If I have any extra in the budget, I'd rather spend money to have more people working than pay for a whole bunch of plastic pots and tags that I do not need!

  4. I don't know what all the fuss is about Proven Winners. So far out of 5 plants I have purchased, 4 have died within 4 weeks. I contacted the company for help with one of the plants and by the time they got back to me (2 weeks), the plant was long dead. I also signed up for the newsletter and free book and have never heard from them. I was on the web searching to see if anyone else thinks PW is just a bunch of hype, charging extra money for a whole lotta extra nothing!

Latest Stories
Cannabis Crop Protection

July 27, 2017

Keep Pests Out of Your Cannabis Facilities

Prevention of pest introduction is the most critical first step in an effective pest management program.

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
ForwardGro

July 27, 2017

ForwardGro Receives Maryland’s First Cannabis Productio…

On May 17, the Maryland Cannabis Commission voted in favor of awarding the first full permit to grow marijuana for the state’s medical program.

Read More
cannabis-planted-in-a-greenhouse

July 27, 2017

How Cannabis Production is Becoming More High-Tech

During the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association’s Spring Meeting, MedMen’s Damian Solomon provided an update on the transition from low-tech cultivation to more advanced indoor production.

Read More
Cannabis Grower Mistakes

July 27, 2017

5 Common Mistakes Made by New Cannabis Growers

Whether it’s overfeeding plants or failure to monitor pH in your water, here are five of the most common pitfalls you can avoid with some preparation and careful monitoring.

Read More
Emerald-Coast-Growers-Guide-Feature-Image

July 27, 2017

Emerald Coast Growers Offers Updated Guide on its Newes…

This year’s guide features new varieties while maintaining Emerald Coast’s ornamental grass program and expanding its perennial plants line.

Read More
Cannabis Structure

July 26, 2017

Greenhouse Cannabis Production Could be a Reality in Sa…

Lawmakers in San Mateo County have agreed to proceed with allowing commercial greenhouse marijuana growing in unincorporated communities.

Read More
Van Wilgens Garden Center Customer Appreciation Day

July 26, 2017

Allan Armitage: How Interacting With Your Customers Can…

Plants are our common denominator, but trust and positive interaction with our customers and each other is truly what keeps us in the plant business.

Read More
Seed Your Future feature

July 26, 2017

Seed Your Future Aims to Inspire Careers in Plants

Who will be the next generation of horticulturists? The answer lies in helping to change the perception of horticulture and using contemporary new language to tell our stories.

Read More
New Growing Media Blends

July 26, 2017

British Researchers Evaluating New Media Blends to Redu…

Research in the United Kingdom has shown that coir-free growing media has the potential to work as well as coir for strawberry crops, and these research results likely apply to greenhouse production, as well.

Read More
Workers

July 25, 2017

H-2B Gets Cap Increase – Here’s How it Impacts Ho…

Greenhouse Grower caught up with AmericanHort’s Craig Regelbrugge to find out how changes to the non-agricultural guestworker program impacts us, and what it could mean for changes to H-2A, the agricultural guestworker program.

Read More
Cultivate Town Hall 2017

July 25, 2017

Cultivate Town Hall Discussion Highlights Great Potenti…

This year’s Town Hall forum at Cultivate’17 focused on how consumable products have the potential to revolutionize the industry.

Read More
Lighting Book Light Management in Controlled Environments

July 25, 2017

Three Lucky Lighting Book Winners at Cultivate’17

Each day during Cultivate’17, the Greenhouse Grower/Meister Media Worldwide booth gave away one copy of “Light Management in Controlled Environments.”

Read More
Farwest Show Floor

July 25, 2017

Heading to Farwest 2017? Make Sure You Register by July…

July 31 is the last day to take advantage of early-bird registration discounts for the show, which includes the trade show, all education seminars and pesticide classes, and nursery country tours.

Read More
Decorative Premium Hanging Baskets (Ainong USA)

July 25, 2017

16 Products That Garden Retailers Loved at Cultivate’17

In what has become an annual tradition at Cultivate, a team of garden retailers presented awards for their picks as the best new products (both live goods and hard goods) from Cultivate’17.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge

July 23, 2017

Horticulture Industry Insiders Offer Tips on Communicat…

With immigration in the spotlight and a national budget that could severely impact horticulture industry programs, it’s more important than ever to be vocal about how the decisions that lawmakers are implementing impact your business.

Read More

July 22, 2017

Craig Regelbrugge: Proposed Budget Cuts Could Eliminate…

President Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year includes significant cuts to the Agricultural Research Service, which supports the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative.

Read More

July 21, 2017

New Products Zone at Cultivate’17 Features Goods …

The New Products zone is always a popular exhibit at Cultivate’17. Here’s a sampling of some of the many items on display that could make growing easier than ever before.

Read More