Orchids, advocacy, plus state promotional programs work!

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News and Inspiration from the world of foliage and tropical plants GrowerTalks MagazineGreen Profit Magazine

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Debbie Hamrick Subscribe
Tropical Topics
Orchids at 3H Farm
Easier Than You Think
State Promos Work 
What Did They Find?
AmericanHort Goes to D.C.

Orchids at 3H Farm

My GrowerTalks colleague Jennifer Zurko spent some time at 3H Farm in Texas a few weeks ago. 3H Farm, you might recall, is who’s growing the Phalaenopsis for Ball Ingenuity’s Bud to Blossom Orchid program. Jen was gracious enough to write up some highlights of her visit.

While traveling around the Houston area, colleague Allison Westbrook and I stopped at 3H Farm. We’d heard about this newer operation around the Ball offices and thought we should pay them a visit.

First, some history: Six years ago, real estate investor Eric Ho bought a 1,200-acre property in Willis, Texas, that used to be the home of Green Valley Growers. He has a passion for Phalaenopsis orchids, so he wanted a place to grow them. The acquisition of the land allowed him to build high-tech greenhouses just for orchids, but what started as part of a hobby is now a full-fledged business. The new business became 3H Farm (the three Hs represent Eric and his two sons).

GM Alex Buckallew said that the orchids are bred and propagated as tissue culture at their facility in Taiwan and brought here to finish and ship to local grocery store chains around Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Kansas and Colorado.

They’ve grown significantly in six years—offering annuals, perennials, shrubs and potted plants—so orchids are now only about 10% of their sales. But this crop is still a focus for them, as they’re creating new programs centered around Phalaenopsis.

The Bud to Blossom program through Ball Ingenuity that was introduced at Spring Trials in April offers growers pre-spiked orchids that will finish in 10 to 12 weeks. Price is one of the primary concerns for those growers that are new to orchids and want to take advantage of this program, but Alex explained that the minimums are small (only one box, which includes 56 plants; 2.8 in. wholesale for about $290.00 a box).  

Easier Than You Think

(continued from above)

And, contrary to what a lot of people believe, orchids aren’t that hard to grow: you don’t need much water; they don’t get diseases or insects; they don’t need PGRs; and all you have to do is keep them between 70F and 80F. The higher price point allows retailers to sell orchids for a more premium price, said Alex, which can also avoid the plants becoming a commodity, like poinsettias and mums. Providing pre-spiked orchids makes them more accessible to growers who normally wouldn’t have thought about selling them. Bud to Blossom is really a program for grower-retailers; not necessarily for high-volume big box growers, he said.

3H is also offering a combo program that pairs orchids with succulents to make a high-end container. Alex said that, depending on the size, you can retail them for a minimum of $29.99. It makes sense, he said, not only because they make gorgeous indoor décor pieces, but also because home care is the same for both.


3H Farm is making high-end combos featuring Phalaenopsis orchids and succulents. We loved them!

Much of their orchids had already been shipped out when we visited, but we still got to see some amazing colors and sizes. One thing we didn’t know—which seems so obvious—is that orchids don’t have variety names. Seriously! Traditionally, they’ve all just had numbers based on height and flower size. Through their breeding program in Taiwan, 3H is working on giving new varieties names so that it’s easier to market them in the United States, which as of now, branded orchid programs have been almost non-existent. I think Jennifer would make a beautiful name for an orchid …

3H is working on breeding new varieties with interesting colors … and with actual names, so that it’s easier to create a marketing program around them in the U.S.

Jennifer Zurko 

State Promos Work for Plants

Are state promotional program logos important to folks buying ornamental plants? That’s the question researchers Hayk Khachatryan and Alicia Rihn of the University of Florida’s Consumer Behavior and Insights Lab asked in one of their recent projects. (You’ll recall that Hayk is the researcher I’ve mentioned in Tropical Topics previously who uses eye motion-detecting glasses to determine where research subjects are placing their attention.) You all grow ornamental plants and sell them in-state, so this is the type of information you can definitely benefit from.

After all, state promotional programs are used extensively to encourage consumers to by fresh produce, but not all of those fresh produce listings include ornamental plants. Florida’s Fresh from Florida campaign extended its reach to greenhouse and nursery crops just three years ago. Hayk and Alicia, along with researchers throughout the country, set out to determine just how Florida consumers responded to the Fresh from Florida campaign when applied to ornamental plants. Were they even aware of the campaign? And did it ultimately influence plant sales?

The research team asked Florida plant consumers to rate their purchase likelihood for fruit-producing plants with various origin promotions (i.e. Fresh from Florida, Grown in the U.S. and Grown Outside the U.S.). While they were rating their purchase likelihood, the team recorded the consumers’ eye movements. This enabled the researchers to assess the relationship between visual attention to in-store promotions and purchase behavior. This relationship could have some critical implications when it comes to marketing tactics, promotional strategies and sales.  

What Did They Find?

Lots of insights that are applicable to both growers and retailers: For instance: 

  • 74% of consumers perceive Fresh from Florida products as "local".
  • The presence of the Fresh from Florida logo improved purchase likelihood by 52% when compared to imported plants. Plants grown domestically improved purchase likelihood by 35% when compared to imported plants.
  • Consumers who were aware of the Fresh from Florida campaign on ornamental plants (approximately 52% of the sample), were 29-35% more likely to purchase the plants than consumers who were not aware of the campaign on ornamental plants.
  • Visual attention to the Fresh from Florida logo improved purchase likelihood by 59%.
  • Consumers who were aware of the Fresh from Florida campaign AND visually attended to the logo were 165% more likely to purchase the plants.

Even though this study was limited to Florida, the above is some pretty insightful research with positive implications for folks employing any type of state or local promotional program. Like what?

Well, these results show the ornamental plant industry can leverage consumers’ association of state promotional programs with local products to get them more interested. Local means plants that are fresher, higher quality, better adapted to the environment and beneficial to the local economy.

Second, the study shows that state programs do attract consumers—so join in! Compared to other promotional efforts, state promotional programs are relatively inexpensive, come with tools to promote the origin of the plants, and often are already recognizable to consumers since they’ve been used for fresh produce for several years.

Already a member of a state promo program? The study indicated it would be worth your time to step up your efforts and get more of your customers aware of both the program and your involvement in it. If you’re a retailer, include more logos, signs, plant tags and so on to educate and inform folks about the products’ origin and to differentiate them from non-local plants.

As Hayk and his team indicated at the end of their study, “with the local movement in full swing, now is the time to embrace your state’s promotional program and utilize it to improve the value of your products to your customers.” Be local proud!

Are any of you folks using the Fresh from Florida or other state promotional program for plants? We’d all appreciate your experiences. Weigh in below or drop me a note at ewells@ballpublishing.com.

And if you’d like to find out what state promotional programs have to offer, take a look at the FDAC’s Fresh from Florida campaign HERE.  

AmericanHort Goes to D.C.

You don’t have to be an expert politician to see how much the last election has changed how things are done in our nation’s capitol. To have our industry’s interests known, it’s in our best interest to go to Washington and become the faces behind the words our politicians claim they hear.

To facilitate that, AmericanHort is convening a two-day advocacy summit in D.C. This Impact Washington event will be where green industry business owners stand united to help our industry survive, thrive and grow. During these two days, you’ll listen to elected leaders, their staff, and policy experts on the issues impacting our entire industry: immigration, labor, taxes, pesticide regulations and others. And most importantly, you’ll share how these issues and proposed policies exhibit themselves in the real world.

Get involved! And get yourself to Washington Impact. Register for the summit HERE.  

Have a Happy Mother's Day, folks! Meanwhile, if you have any comments on anything above or have something to share in an upcoming issue, just drop me a line at ewells@ballpublishing.com.

Ellen Wells
Green Profit

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