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...

May 23, 2017

USDA-APHIS Bulletin on Unauthorized Distribution of Genetically Engineered Petunias

On May 2, 2017, USDA-APHIS was informed that an orange petunia variety was potentially genetically engineered and had been imported and moved interstate without required authorization by APHIS. This led to testing of numerous petunia varieties, which confirmed this particular variety and several others are genetically engineered, and meet the regulatory definition of a regulated article under APHIS regulations. APHIS continues to work with the industry to ensure unauthorized GE petunias are not distributed in the United States.

Read More
Petunia F1 African Sunset from American Takii

May 22, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Question and Answer with AmericanHort’s Craig Regelbrugge

AmericanHort’s key role interfacing with the USDA on the recall of genetically modified petunias has helped the horticulture industry rapidly address the problem. Senior Vice President Craig Regelbrugge talks about recent updates, the impact on the industry, and where it goes from here.

Read More
Eason 2017 spring trials report

May 16, 2017

New California Spring Trials Report Now Available From Eason Horticultural Resources

The report features genetics from 21 different breeding companies and information gathered from the 15 different stops on this year’s tour.

Read More
Latest Stories

May 23, 2017

USDA-APHIS Bulletin on Unauthorized Distribution of Gen…

On May 2, 2017, USDA-APHIS was informed that an orange petunia variety was potentially genetically engineered and had been imported and moved interstate without required authorization by APHIS. This led to testing of numerous petunia varieties, which confirmed this particular variety and several others are genetically engineered, and meet the regulatory definition of a regulated article under APHIS regulations. APHIS continues to work with the industry to ensure unauthorized GE petunias are not distributed in the United States.

Read More
Petunia F1 African Sunset from American Takii

May 22, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Question and Answe…

AmericanHort’s key role interfacing with the USDA on the recall of genetically modified petunias has helped the horticulture industry rapidly address the problem. Senior Vice President Craig Regelbrugge talks about recent updates, the impact on the industry, and where it goes from here.

Read More
Eason 2017 spring trials report

May 16, 2017

New California Spring Trials Report Now Available From …

The report features genetics from 21 different breeding companies and information gathered from the 15 different stops on this year’s tour.

Read More
Schizachyrium scoparium The Blues

May 13, 2017

How Ornamental Grasses and Sedges Can Play a Role in Po…

Grasses and sedges provide food, shelter, and support for pollinators and the birds and mammals that keep insect populations in balance.

Read More
Asclepias with a bumblebee

May 8, 2017

How to Choose the Best Native Plants for Pollinator Gar…

The popularity of native plants is rising as gardeners become conscious of the need to plant more pollinator gardens. The challenge is to select the right plants to put in them.

Read More
Allan Armitage Of Naked Ladies and Forget Me Nots

May 2, 2017

Allan Armitage: How Growers Can Be Creative to Take Gar…

Our industry does a good job of making things convenient for our customers. It’s time to take it a step further.

Read More
Asclepias tuberosa

April 29, 2017

Greenhouse Growing Tips for Asclepias tuberosa

Madeline Maynor, Growing Operations Manager for Landenberg, PA-based North Creek Nurseries, shares greenhouse growing tips for Asclepias tuberosa, the 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year.

Read More
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 25, 2017

Kelly Norris: Diversity is the Key to Growing the Ornam…

Offering a selection of ornamental grasses that cater to customer needs will keep sales from stagnating.

Read More

April 25, 2017

41 New Vegetative Petunias From California Spring Trial…

With the abundance of new introductions for the 2018 retail season, we’ve made it easier for you to sift through them by separating out the vegetative petunias from the Northern sites, which includes selections from Westhoff Flowers, Sakata Ornamentals, Danziger, Proven Winners, and Syngenta flowers.

Read More
Begonia Spectre Silver Terra Nova Nurseries

April 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begon…

Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.

Read More

April 18, 2017

Cool Combos From CAST 2017 – Editor’s Choic…

With container gardening becoming more of a lifestyle among consumers than a trend, and breeders continuing to put more effort in container mixes and components, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't share some of the special combinations that not only caught my eye at California Spring Trials, but absolutely took my breath away and made me want to immediately get started gardening.

Read More
Danziger New Hires

April 16, 2017

Danziger Invests in Continued North American Business G…

As part of a new business structure for its North American market, Mike Fernandez has been appointed Market Manager North America for Bedding Plants and Perennials, and Kate Zvara was named as Key Account Manager and Retail Specialist.

Read More
Florida Flower Trials

April 12, 2017

Looking for Info on New Varieties for Hot Climates? Che…

The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association’s Florida Flower Trials, which are focused on new and improved varieties able to thrive in the extremes of Florida’s climate, are a great opportunity to connect with national breeders.

Read More
Lupinus Staircase Series (Green Fuse Botanicals)

April 11, 2017

Begonias, Celosias Among Dr. Allan Armitage’s Favorites…

Check out some of Allan’s top picks from his final day at CAST 2017, which included visits to Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova.

Read More
Rex Begonia container mix at Green Fuse Botanicals

April 11, 2017

Green Fuse Botanicals’ Rex Begonias and First Looks; Fl…

Here are the highlights from Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova on the last day of CAST 2017.

Read More

April 7, 2017

Hort Couture Wows With Farm to Table; Florist Holland R…

On the last day for GroLink and the second to last for the Greenhouse Grower team, the wealth of genetics, marketing programs, and announcements were pleasing to our eyes, ears, and hearts.

Read More

April 7, 2017

California Spring Trials Day Five: Notable New Plant Va…

See some of the new varieties for 2018 displayed at Ball Horticultural and GroLink Plant Company on day five of California Spring Trials 2017.

Read More

April 7, 2017

PanAmerican Promotes Pentas, Plug-and-Play, and Veggies…

On Day 5 of the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team hit the Southern California Trials and saw a multitude of new introductions and exciting programs.

Read More