In the same year as its milestone 10th Birthday, the SunPatiens brand has more to celebrate, as it receives Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Excellence In Marketing Award. Bred by Sakata Ornamentals, SunPatiens is the first global brand the company has promoted. In the 10 years it has been on the market, it has proven itself as a consistent garden performer that delivers color all season long for growers, retailers, landscapers, and consumers
“Our typical approach is to reflect local market tastes or regional distinctions in the marketing teams, for various reasons, but with SunPatiens we made a very clear decision that we would do this globally, and that has helped the brand,” says Sakata Seed CEO David Armstrong. “It’s like Coca-Cola — whether you go to China, Brazil, or Brussels, you’re going to see SunPatiens called SunPatiens, and it’s going to perform and be marketed the same way. That was an important part of the brand building for Sakata.”
Sakata Ornamentals has supported the brand with a consumer-facing website, SunPatiens.com, a website for the trade, SakataOrnamentals.com, as well as a logo and packaging that looks the same worldwide. The original message found on all tags and branded pots was the tagline, “The Power To Grow,” which is still the underlying foundation of its success, says Product Manager Mark Seguin.
With dozens of varieties in the line, SunPatiens has won 23 awards in the North American market, as well as countless others internationally. Thanks to its performance in both containers and the landscape, the SunPatiens brand has established itself as one of the top-selling bedding plants.
SunPatiens And CBD
SunPatiens got its start in Indonesia, when Sakata plant breeders identified a distinctive impatiens species growing in the wild that was flowering under full-sun conditions. Realizing its genetic potential, Sakata contracted the use of the plant from the Indonesian government under the CBD protocol. After eight years in research and development and countless crosses with other species, Sakata introduced SunPatiens in 2006.
How SunPatiens Overcame The Retail Disconnect
It wasn’t always easy for SunPatiens, Seguin says. In the early years after its launch, the retail presentation was challenging, as growers often produced SunPatiens using the same culture as traditional New Guinea impatiens, which resulted in less-than-ideal finish material. The vigorous nature of the very early introductions were often limited to larger containers with higher price points.
“Initial sales growth was modest, but awards for their outstanding performance in flower trials continued to accumulate,” he says. “We demonstrated this versatile performance in countless flower trials throughout North America, and in the many awards and distinctions earned through presentations to retail merchants and their grower councils. Our broker/distributor partners also played a vital role in promoting the product potential of SunPatiens by supporting the sales and growing recommendations with their grower customers.”
Sakata credits The Home Depot and its grower council with seeing the promise of SunPatiens’ extraordinary garden performance early on.
“The series really developed with the introduction of the Compact SunPatiens,” Seguin says. “Growers refined their production techniques, and with the improved genetics were able to deliver high-quality plants in various sizes and containers to retailers and landscapers alike.”
The Downy Mildew Dilemma
Another sales boost for SunPatiens came with the unfortunate onset of Impatiens Downy Mildew. The disease was death for seed impatiens, while New Guineas and SunPatiens proved resistant. Trials showed the side-by-side comparison of SunPatiens standing up and thriving in the same beds where Impatiens walleriana were completely wiped out. With the supply chain and consumers looking for shade alternatives to the millions of units sold of Impatiens walleriana in the aftermath of Impatiens Downy Mildew, many people were exposed to SunPatiens who may not have been, Seguin says.
“While New Guineas were often pushed as an alternative, because they, too, are resistant, I think people found the SunPatiens offered more, given their vigor, so fewer plants are needed in the landscape,” Seguin says.
“The downy mildew issue really opened the door for people to try SunPatiens, and they have been happy with the performance and come back for more. The result has been extraordinary growth, as more end-users discover the real value SunPatiens deliver.”
That growing awareness of SunPatiens and its reputation for excellent garden performance will likely be helped along by Sakata Ornamentals’ recently expanded agreement with garden guru and plantsman P. Allen Smith, who will promote SunPatiens as one of his partner brands in consumer media. Smith has called SunPatiens a gamechanger in impatiens because it can be grown anywhere, provides disease resistance, and allows consumers to be successful.
“SunPatiens is a hero product because it’s one that consumers are likely to not fail with, and the more of those that we can roll out, the more confidence we can build among consumers. We’ve got to keep that momentum going.”