As the demand for combination planters and baskets continues to grow, Four Star’s Bundled Combination Kits program has expanded exponentially. Designed to make planting easy for growers, the program has grown from 28 plant recipes just five years ago to nearly 300 this year. The program is designed to appeal to consumers, too, and include the most popular combinations from Proven Winners.® Greenhouse Grower asked Curt Varsogea, Sales Manager for Four Star, about the program and how it works for growers.
GG: What do you see as the future for combos? Is it an area you feel will become increasingly popular, or do you feel it has hit its saturation point?
CV: I see the future of container gardening continuing to grow as more and more millennials get into gardening. I think the definition of gardening has changed over the years, and many people now see putting a container or hanging basket in their yard as gardening.
Millennials are also living in rentals, which limits their flower gardening potential – but renting lends to contained/container gardening. As millennials age up (they are now the largest generation in the workforce) and with many starting families, they are reaching their peak earning years, and it’s likely their interest in gardening will continue to grow.
GG: What is the Bundled Combination Kits program, and how long have you been offering it?
CV: We have been offering the bundled combination program for five years, and it is a program designed to make it easy for the grower to order Proven Winners recipes. Creating combinations can be a very difficult task, but with a bundled combo program we have nearly 300 recipes that growers can choose from with confidence. The program provides all the plant material and tags for 42 combinations. When ordering the combination, growers only need to select the combo name and we will do the rest. There’s no need to order each individual component or calculate tag ratios.
GG: How do you decide which varieties will work well together, both for the grower and the consumer? What is the process?
CV: The number-one selection criteria for all Proven Winners plants is garden performance. With strong garden performance in all our plants, finding the plants that grow well together and color combinations that appeal to our customers is how we decide what to offer. We trial them in house. There are examples of combinations in the program that our customers have requested, for which we produce a kit. In those cases, we may not have trialed that specific combo; however it is a combo that works well in a particular region of the country and has a proven track record with that grower.
GG: What advantages are you trying to provide to growers with the Bundled Combination Kits program? What are your goals for the program?
CV: The goal of the program is to make it easy for our customers to order their combinations, as well as to simplify their production. Labeling individual component trays with the combination name makes it easy for their production people to know where the plants go.
There are several advantages for the grower:
1) Each combination will receive a combination-specific tag
2) There are no individual stake tags shipped with the kit
3) All the individual component trays are labeled with the combination name, making it easier for the production crews
4) When ordering, a bundled combination kit is one line item not three separate line items
5) Tried and true combinations; they can have confidence that the components will “play well together” and thrive.
GG: How have the Bundled Combinations been received by growers? What’s the feedback?
CV: Growers love the simplicity of the program. We have made the process of selecting combinations much easier for them. We started the program with approximately 28 combos five years ago, and due to the popularity of the program, have increased the combos we offer 10 fold! With nearly 300 combinations in the program to choose from, growers can simply review the offerings and choose what they like. We saw 64% growth in our 2016-2017 vs. 2015-2016 kit sales.
One of the biggest advantages that we hear from growers is how easy it is to order a bundled combination kit. Growers like the fact that each tray is labeled with the combination name, so it is easy to identify which plants go in a specific combo. Another benefit growers often mention is how they like the combo-specific tag that comes with the program and the fact that there are no stake tags, reducing the amount of additional plastic and labor.
GG: Are there new combinations in the works for next year, and do you take out combinations when you add new ones?
CV: We constantly evaluate the program and make additions and deletions each year based on sales data from our retail-ready program, as well as sales data within the program. If we have combinations that are not selling well, and we have similar color options in another combination, we will drop that offering from the program.
At Four Star we are always trialing potential new combinations and looking for the best-performing ones to enhance the program’s offering. We are currently conducting potential new combinations trials right now. We know the customer is looking for something that has visual impact, and therefore are constantly experimenting with new recipes, looking outside traditional combos.