Medal Of Excellence: Saluting Suntory

Medal Of Excellence: Saluting Suntory

The timing couldn’t be better to present Japanese flower breeder Suntory with our Medal of Excellence for Industry Achievement. This year marks the 20-year anniversary of its very first flower introduction in the Suntory collection–Surfinia, a vigorous vegetative petunia that swept the world like a tsunami by creating a whole new class of petunias, commanding a premium unheard of in seed counterparts.

Up until then, Suntory, a $14 billion global company based in Osaka, Japan, was primarily focused on food, beverage and lifestyle industries. The Suntory family’s roots trace back to 1899. In addition to having its own products, Suntory represents leading brands in Japan, including Häagen Dazs ice cream, Subway and Pepsi. Today, Suntory’s flower varieties are licensed in 24 countries. Bear Creek Gardens/Jackson & Perkins has been the master licensee for North America.

“Suntory was the original pioneer in the vegetative annuals breeding revolution,” says Brian Gold of Pineae Greenhouses, one of the first American licensees.

“Without Suntory’s leadership, it would be doubtful this entire class of plants would exist as it does today. The breeders at Suntory have truly had great vision and forward thinking.”

Suntory also has been praised for taking the high road, elevating product categories and creating value. “Flowers are not a commodity,” says Shigeru

Sarada, who directs Suntory’s flower division. “We are selling enjoyment and happiness. It doesn’t make sense to discount happiness.” 

Revolutionary Breeding

After petunias, the next class of annuals to be revolutionized was verbena, with vegetatively produced Tapien and Temari series, making stunning groundcovers and baskets. Then came a whole new genus with Million Bells calibrachoa. This line was a huge success. Today, calibrachoa are generically referred to as Million Bells.

“What made their varieties successful was they were truly newer versions of existing things,” says John Rader of EuroAmerican Propagators. “They took a petunia and created an amazing petunia on steroids! They broke the mold. That kind of vision was critical. They recognized the potential of calibrachoa, so not only were they working in existing classes but finding new stuff, too.”

The Suntory lines helped Proven Winners get started in the 1990s. “Early on, they were part of the explosion of our business,” Rader says. “They helped us do really well. Million Bells, Tapien, Temari and Surfinia got us off the ground initially. They helped the whole thing gain momentum.”

Today, Rader is most excited about the Senetti cinerarias bred by Dr. Kiyoshi Miyazaki. They have been a big hit in the United Kingdom. “Growers, retailers and consumers here have yet to discover what they can do,” Rader says. “They are a far advanced cineraria, just like with Surfinia. In addition to being a pot plant, Senettis are more versatile as outdoor bedding. They will rebloom and are longer living.”

Going For Garden Performance

Suntory isn’t a company that rushes to introduce new varieties each year. It conducts extensive trials all over the world. Conditions in Japan include hot, wet summers and cold, dry winters. Suntory also has a breeding partnership with Oasis Horticulture in Australia called Bonza, which led to the drought-tolerant Surdiva scaevolas.

Gold says Suntory’s focus on quality and longevity made their introductions succeed. “The Suntory variety selection model has always been putting the consumer first to provide products that will provide maximum quality and landscape performance,” he says.

Danny Takao of Takao Nursery, who produces the Sun Parasol mandevillas, says Suntory realizes it is consumer who are the ultimate judge of their breeding. “They understand all their breeding must have good garden performance to have value to the consumer, something some of the breeding programs forget,” Takao says. “In the central part of California, our temperatures swing from the low 30s in the winter to low 100s in the summer. Trialing and seeing for myself how well the plants performed throughout the year made me understand the garden performance Suntory breeds into plants.”

James Russell of Armstrong Growers, the largest independent garden center chain in the United States, has really gotten behind the Suntory lines and even has trucks with large pictures of Million Bells driving up and down the California coast.

“Suntory’s willingness to work with retailers to promote and build brand awareness has been the greatest asset in retail,” Russell says. “The people at Suntory are some of the most professional, likeable and innovative people in the horticultural business. Personal friendships are part of the package at Suntory.”

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “Medal Of Excellence: Saluting Suntory

  1. Can someone tell me why a breeder like Suntory who has medal of excellence for their products, chooses craps propagators and why there is no way to contacting the breeder?

  2. Can someone tell me why a breeder like Suntory who has medal of excellence for their products, chooses craps propagators and why there is no way to contacting the breeder?

More From Varieties...
Suntory Grandessa argyranthemum - feature

September 18, 2017

Breeders Open Availability for Unrooted Cuttings; Here’s How Growers Will Benefit

With new avenues for buying young plants for vegetative production, growers should have an easier time finding availability and receiving shipments of unrooted cuttings for the coming seasons.

Read More
Ball, Tagawa Succulents Partnership

September 14, 2017

Ball Seed to Partner With Tagawa Greenhouses on New Succulent Offerings

The new program includes in-demand retail products that are popular with younger shoppers, allowing growers to easily build a comprehensive succulent program and stay on-trend in the marketplace.

Read More
Strait-Laced Elderberry

September 10, 2017

Check Out the Top Varieties On Display at Farwest 2017

A panel of plant experts, along with show attendees, selected their favorite offerings during the Farwest 2017 New Varieties Showcase.

Read More
Latest Stories
Suntory Grandessa argyranthemum - feature

September 18, 2017

Breeders Open Availability for Unrooted Cuttings; Here&…

With new avenues for buying young plants for vegetative production, growers should have an easier time finding availability and receiving shipments of unrooted cuttings for the coming seasons.

Read More
Ball, Tagawa Succulents Partnership

September 14, 2017

Ball Seed to Partner With Tagawa Greenhouses on New Suc…

The new program includes in-demand retail products that are popular with younger shoppers, allowing growers to easily build a comprehensive succulent program and stay on-trend in the marketplace.

Read More
Strait-Laced Elderberry

September 10, 2017

Check Out the Top Varieties On Display at Farwest 2017

A panel of plant experts, along with show attendees, selected their favorite offerings during the Farwest 2017 New Varieties Showcase.

Read More

September 5, 2017

Hort Couture Announces New Propagation and Broker Partn…

The new grower-propagator partners are deeply vested in the independent garden center channel with propagation expertise, as well as finished production focused on the independent grower.

Read More
Helianthus Sunfinity (Syngenta Flowers)

September 3, 2017

Growing Tips for Helianthus Sunflower ‘Sunfinity…

This annual sunflower is a profuse bloomer with strong branching that produces multiple flowers per plant from spring to fall.

Read More
Ball Seed Field Day 2017

September 2, 2017

Highlights from Ball Seed’s Annual Field Day and Landsc…

Attendees of the one-day event had the opportunity to see new plants in up-close-and-personal trials, and engage with speakers and product experts.

Read More
Bidens Popstar (Kientzler)

August 31, 2017

Allan Armitage: Why I’ve Become a Fan of Bidens

The rather boring plant with mundane daisy-yellow flowers has morphed into a vigorous plant carrying colorful flowers that seems to be comfortable in most of the country.

Read More

August 29, 2017

27 New Impatiens for Spring Color in 2018

Gardeners love impatiens because they are one of the few plants that offer stand-out, splashy blooms for shady areas, and in some cases full sun. There's no shortage of new introductions this year to choose from for your 2018 product mix. Here are 27 new and improved varieties to consider offering to your customers.  

Read More
Calandiva kalanchoes (Dümmen Orange) Feature

August 28, 2017

Lifestyle Plants Are in Full Bloom for Consumers

The latest decorating trends indicate consumers want hassle-free, colorful plants with big flowers — and growers are finding unique ways to cash in on these luxury-item sales.

Read More
Cuphea Fairy Dust Pink (Proven Winners) feature

August 26, 2017

Kelly Norris: Noteworthy Plants That Caught My Attentio…

Imagine the modern consumer getting so excited about a new plant that they shared the experience with a friend, perhaps not even a fellow gardening consumer.

Read More

August 20, 2017

Proven Winners and Kentucky Nursery and Landscape Assoc…

This year, KNLA is combining its summer outing with the Proven Winners Landscape Roadshow for an informative event that will take place on September 21.

Read More
Four Star 2018 Catalog

August 18, 2017

Four Star Greenhouses’ 2018 Catalog Includes New Variet…

The new catalog is available in both print and digital formats, and features information on new trays that allow for more plugs per square foot.

Read More
Francis Kwong, PanAmerican Seed

August 15, 2017

Ornamental Seed Scientist Francis Kwong Dies at Age 65

Kwong was most recently the Director of Seed Technology for PanAmerican Seed, and his research was instrumental in the development of calibrachoa, angelonia, and other plants.

Read More
Candy Tops Snapdragons Series (Sakata Ornamentals)

August 3, 2017

Five Characteristics Breeders Want in Top-Performing Sp…

New spring annuals have to provide something for everyone — longevity, durability, performance, and more — if they want to meet breeders’ high standards for market-worthy plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Headliner Pink Sky" (Selecta)

August 3, 2017

Why Eccentricity is the New Black in Spring Annuals

Consumers judge plants by appearance, color impact, and ease of maintenance, which is why retailers want new spring annuals that are novel standouts.    

Read More

August 1, 2017

39 New Vegetables and Herbs for 2018

New vegetable and herb introductions for 2017 offer unique shaped fruits, distinctive foliage, intense flavors, improved disease resistance, high yields, and more. Here are 39 new vegetable and herb varieties to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More
2018 Griffin Catalog

July 31, 2017

Griffin Releases Print and Digital Versions of Its 2018…

The 250-page print catalog features more than 350 new varieties from leading breeders, while the enhanced digital version has extra features on crop culture, grower tools, and more.

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