Tap Into The Edibles Market

View: Industry Power Shift Approaching

The economic downturn we have endured since 2008 has clearly impacted what consumers buy and how much they are willing to spend. In our industry, people have chosen food over flowers. According to the National Gardening Association (NGA)’s 2012 National Gardening Survey, food gardening has higher revenues at $2.7 billion than flower gardening with revenues of $2.1 billion.

NGA also noted the vast difference in space allocation at retail. In many garden centers, the space is overwhelmingly controlled by flower gardening products, even though vegetable gardening drives more consumer revenue. This is a clear indication that the revenue per square foot at retail is far greater in the food category.

Edible Options In The Market

What has and continues to astonish me is the lack of vegetable programs dedicated to container gardening. While the NGA says 49 percent of the consumers who food garden participated in container gardening, they grew mostly standard varieties, not those bred for small spaces and containers. Yes, we see a number of tomatoes and peppers offered in 10- or 12-inch containers, but this is the exception to the rule.

For the last several years, industry professionals have been excited about the Vegetalis line of container vegetables, but with the exception of Sweet ‘n’ Neat, these varieties rarely show up at retail. We have not observed any vegetable hanging baskets with the Vegetalis varieties. Vegetables are typically the highest-margin products for most growers with low input cost, limited crop times and great sell through in today’s world. Even the fantastic Vegetalis varieties are priced so low it’s almost shameful, costing less than half as much as high-value flower seed items. This is a real marketing tragedy.

One of the real beneficiaries of the edible boom is ABZ Seeds. The company has bred and marketed a great line of high-performing strawberries that not only produce very edible fruit but also have colorful flowers prior to fruiting. From my retail observations, it appears that a huge percentage of the strawberries on the retailer’s shelves are seed varieties from ABZ Seeds.

These guys know how to price better than most seed companies. Offering their seed at the same relative price as the dormant field-grown roots — but with many more benefits — is a great example of pricing to value. On average, both forms sell to the grower market in the $0.10 to $0.12 range, whereas the Vegetalis varieties are roughly in the area of $0.035 to $0.045. Tomatoes and peppers in a 10-inch patio container retail from $9.98 to $13.98 depending on the retailer.

For example, if a grower who receives $7.50 for a 10-inch container pays $0.035 for the seed and achieves 75 percent usable seedlings, his perishable input cost would be $0.047. That would equal less than 1 percent input cost relative to the selling price. Compare that to the average input cost for vegetative annuals that typically have an input cost percentage for selling prices of 15 to 25 percent. My point is edibles are profitable, and container vegetables are extremely profitable.

Popular Edibles Brands

By far the No. 1 brand in this category is Bonnie Plants, which is the dominant supplier at Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes. This past spring, the only vegetables I saw in Home Depot were from Bonnie. Other brands — including Burpee and Grow Your Own — were much less visible this season as Bonnie dominated at the national retailers.

There are several brands dedicated to the independent garden center sector. The most notable brand is Chef Jeff’s, which offers a diverse line of vegetables and herbs with great packaging and very relevant point-of-sale (POS) materials. In the organic category, there is the Organix brand from the Plug Connection, which was not widely seen in my travels, and two really outstanding programs from Smith Gardens in Bellingham, Wash., called Growe and Earthe. These two brands are positioned for different retailers, and both have good packaging and great POS materials. In most of the country, organic vegetables are not available at the national retailers or at a lot of independents.

For the first time in the berry category, there will be berries bred for patio containers with gorgeous flowers and attractive foliage, as well as flavorful fruit. The Brazel Berries brand from Fall Creek Nursery is sure to re-invent this category.

The Target Customer For Edibles

According to the NGA, food gardening is a great category to attract future gardeners. In 2011, 30 percent of the 18 to 34 age group participated in the herb category. In the berries category, 43 percent participated. The 18 to 34 group also ranked second in the number of food-gardening households (8 million, or 27 percent of participating households), which is second only to the 55-plus age group (11 million or 37 percent of participating households).

This is clearly a sign that this group loves food-related gardening. The industry must attract this huge demographic group, or the future will be bleak. The way to attract them is through food gardening, so let’s start communicating our values.
In a six-year period, the vegetable category experienced a 40-percent growth with sales rising from $1.164 billion in 2006 to $1.63 billion in 2011. The highest sales totaled $1.762 billion in 2009. The number of households active in vegetable gardening in 2011 was 30 million, up from 25 million in 2006. This was a 20-percent increase, although slightly down from a peak of 31 million in 2009 and 2010. This indicates that although the 18 to 34 age group enjoys growing edibles, the demand and participation rate may be flattening.

Increase Profit With Container Edibles

The NGA survey has not asked any container gardening questions since 2009 when the participation in container vegetables was 48 percent. But of those who said they were vegetable gardeners, it is clear from the annuals category that convenience and ease-of-use are paramount issues for the consumers. With the 55-plus age group less willing to dig holes and pull weeds and the 18-to-34 age group not inclined to dig in the dirt, containers provide the biggest opportunities.

Containers do not necessarily have to be the traditional 10- or 12-inch patio pots that are common with annuals offerings. Think about smaller containers for patio tables like the 7-inch Sweet ‘n’ Neat at Lowe’s from Metrolina Greenhouses.

Color Bowls of various sizes make nice mixed herb gardens. Window boxes containing both herbs and vegetables and hanging baskets for small space garden varieties are other options. Some of the really dwarf Vegetalis tomatoes can grow and produce nicely in a 6-inch container. No matter how you choose to grow them, vegetables offer huge opportunities, low input, reduced crop times and great gross margins. What else could you want?


Leave a Reply

More From Vegetables...
Bee Vectoring Technology Bumblebee

December 1, 2015

New Crop Protection Solution Uses Bees To Deliver Biocontrols To Flowering Crops

The new system from Bee Vectoring Technology incorporated a powdered crop protection material into the lid of commercial bumblebee hives. Bees pick up the product when they leave the hive and deposit it on every plant they visit.

Read More
Smith Gardens Marysville outdoor field production

November 30, 2015

Why Smith Gardens’ Marysville, WA, Facility Is A Great Place To Work

Labor rates in Washington State are some of the highest in the nation, making competition for labor fierce. This is why Smith Gardens in Marysville, WA, wants to strengthen its reputation as a great place to work.

Read More
Feature - Agave ‘Blue Waves’ (Rancho Tissue Technologies)

November 30, 2015

Spice Up The Garden With 12 New Succulent And Miniature Plant Varieties

New succulents and miniature plants for 2016 offer a variety of colors and foliage textures that add interest and visual appeal to any size garden — indoors or out.

Read More
Latest Stories
This row of tomatoes with large fruit load is part of an on-going project with DeRuiter Seed Co

November 20, 2015

What To Consider When Growing Vegetables Under Cover

Some critical points to think about before adding vegetables to your crop mix include market, crop choice, and labor.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Pot

November 16, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Launches New Savor Edibles And Fr…

This new line of nearly 150 vegetables and herbs is aimed at Millennials and will be available to garden centers in 2016.

Read More
Increased customer demand led Good Harvest Farms to add hydroponic lettuce in 2000

November 13, 2015

Ornamental Greenhouse Growers Must Do Their Homework Wh…

Good Harvest Farms began growing hydroponic lettuce 15 years ago. Owner Chris Powell says having a reliable market and emphasizing quality are critical.

Read More
To offer consumers an attractive crop, Local Appetite uses high tunnels to grow cherry tomatoes

November 13, 2015

Vegetable Grower Makes The Move To Protected Agricultur…

High tunnels have helped one Alabama grower produce high-quality crops year-round while providing a significant return on investment.

Read More

September 18, 2015

Grimes Horticulture And Seeds By Design Form Partnershi…

The new alliance will allow the two companies to take advantage of each of their strengths in breeding and marketing of new vegetable varieties for greenhouse growers and farm marketers.

Read More

August 4, 2015

New 2015 California Spring Trial Edibles For The Patio …

If you are looking to capitalize on the foodie trend and spread your risk beyond Spring sales, new vegetables showcased at 2015 California Spring Trials offer plenty of opportunities to focus on unique, flavorful vegetables and edible plants that also hold ornamental value. Here are a few of new varieties Editor Laura Drotleff and Group Editor Carol Miller discovered at Spring Trials that will help diversify your crop mix.

Read More

April 20, 2015

Three Michigan State University On-Demand Webinars Offe…

The first rule of effective insect and disease control for vegetables is to take action to prevent problems before they occur. But in order to do that, you need to have an effective pest and disease management strategy in place that incorporates best practices to ensure a successful outcome. Michigan State University offers three pest and disease management on-demand webinars that will get you started and keep you on the right track.

Read More

April 16, 2015

American Takii’s Asian Vegetable Line Is Designed…

Unlike many of the other breeders displaying at Spring Trials, American Takii didn’t have many new introductions. But it did have a new program that has prompted many visitors to post to social media — its Asian vegetables. Takii, which is well known for its vegetable breeding, is in the process of vetting the eight to 12 vegetables it will include in the program, and it should have its list fully complete by fall 2015. It is selecting plants that will be easy to use in Asian cooking and will help it stand out from the many vegetable programs in the ornamental market. The Takii marketing team designed bright-red Chinese food takeout containers to act as plant sleeves and a small booklet with five recipes. Honey Chicken With Pak Choy looked especially tasty. Take a look at how the program looks and let us know what you think.       HilverdaKooij is a […]

Read More
Zucchini 'Brice' (Syngenta Vegetables)

April 14, 2015

18 New Vegetables For Easy Growing And Healthy Eating

Current breeding efforts have focused on vegetable varieties that cater to small space and urban gardening trends and offer consumers good performance with minimal efforts. As a result, new, easy care vegetable introductions packed with flavor and loaded with fruits have swept onto the market. Here are 18 of the newest vegetables already on the market or hitting the market in 2016.

Read More

April 13, 2015

Keeping Your Greenhouse Vegetables And Fruits Safe: Ove…

This is the first installment of a four-part series that will bring you up to speed on what it takes to fulfill food safety mandates for greenhouse production.

Read More

April 10, 2015

5 Selection Principles For Vegetables That Sell

You gain a competitive edge when you select vegetable varieties that are right for your greenhouse and right for your customers. Here are five pieces of advice from breeders to help you stay ahead of the game.

Read More

March 31, 2015

California Summer Vegetable Trials To Be Hosted By Nati…

Vegetable breeding companies will come together this August to host the Summer Vegetable Trials in California. Like the long-standing California Spring Trials that are held annually in California, attendees will have the opportunity to visit breeding companies' trial sites in seven locations throughout the state, from August 20-21, 2015. National Garden Bureau (NGB), the non-profit organization promoting gardening on behalf of the horticulture industry, is organizing and publicizing this event on behalf of its members.

Read More

November 24, 2014

Root Crops And Plug Trays: A Perfect Match

Growing a plant to maturity in plug trays might be foreign to ornamental growers, but with a little help from plug tray manufacturers and breeders, there is little to hold growers back in this root crop category.

Read More

November 14, 2014

First Vegetatively Propagated All-America Selections (A…

All-America Selections (AAS) honors two vegetatively propagated impatiens with AAS winner status.

Read More

October 8, 2014

Gotham Greens To Build Rooftop Farm In Chicago

Gotham Greens announced October 7 that it has partnered with Method Products, an eco-friendly cleaning product company - to build what they are calling the "world's largest rooftop farm" at Method's new manufacturing plant in the Pullman neighborhood, on Chicago's south side.

Read More

August 19, 2014

A Look Ahead At Food Safety For Commercial Greenhouse V…

If you grow food in your greenhouse that is sold for consumption, food safety regulations will affect you. Here is a recap of Debbie Hamrick’s (North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation) Cultivate'14 presentation on food safety for commercial greenhouse vegetable production.

Read More

July 22, 2014

Bright Farms Launches Crowdfunding Campaign To Build Ur…

Urban farming pioneer Bright Farms is attempting to crowdfund what it hopes will be the "world's most productive urban farm," in Washington, D.C.

Read More

July 18, 2014

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: Go Green Agriculture In…

Read about how Go Green Agriculture Inc. took its business from the classroom to commercial reality in one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]