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The Paradigm Shift in Floriculture

by Terry Johnson
The Produce Newsf

It was Thomas Kuhn who first defined the term "paradigm shift" as the phenomenon where "one conceptual world view is replaced by another." In other words, it describes a change from one way of thinking to another-- a transformation that doesn't "just happen" but is driven by agents of change.

Anyone carefully examining the significance of our current market dynamics would conclude that floriculture is certainly in the midst of a transformation that could very well mean that this paradigm shift is well underway.

Nowhere were these indications of a transformation more apparent than at two recently held June conferences on opposite sides of the U.S. The first conference took place June 3rd in San Francisco entitled "Eco-Flower Power: Sustainability Trends for the Floral Industry", an event organized by Gerald Prolman, Founder and CEO of Organic Bouquet, Inc. of Mill Valley, California

Several excellent speakers from around the world brought attendees up to date on what has been happening on issues and programs related to world floriculture and it's relationship to the environment. The event also showcased flowers grown with newly developed standards with a focus on sustainable flower production that include reduction in pesticide use, improvements in worker safety, and the role of organic practices in flower growing. The Conference also highlighted a new flower certification initiative that has been developed by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) Emeryville, California.

According to the SCS Veriflora Certification Manual, "Increasingly, flower retailers and consumers are looking for assurances regarding the environmental sustainability and social responsibility of farming practices employed in the production and handling of fresh cut flowers and ornamentals, and the safety of handling such products. This Sustainable Agriculture Certification Standard for Cut Flowers and Ornamental Plants (the "Standard") establishes a framework for certifying "best practices" among flower and ornamental production operations and handling operations, and for ensuring that products purchased are safe to handle."

Finally, the Conference concluded by pointing out many opportunities for floral from a marketing and distribution standpoint in attracting a growing number of consumers interested in flowers and concerned about social and environmental best practices. It was a fitting end to a highly interesting and enlightening day that clearly opened an exciting and profitable future for our industry.

The second event, held June 26-29 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, was the Seeley Conference, an annual "think tank" for industry leadership that focuses on one issue each year. This year's topic was "Stayin' Alive: Can we Captivate the Elusive Consumer." Conference organizers brought in several professional presenters from outside the industry that had been asked to bring their perspectives of floral to help Conference attendees answer the following questions: Who is consuming flowers and plants? What is on the mind of floral consumers? How are other industries reacting to the changing consumer? What new business models are working to reach the elusive consumer? What benefits should be conveyed to consumers to achieve the goals of the industry and individual businesses? and How must we reinvent our industry's products to better relate to consumers?

Attendees freely contributed to the formal presentations and had many other opportunities for less formal discussions during several networking sessions throughout the Conference. There was also an open discussion on the final day where all were encouraged to share their opinions of what we need to do to develop solutions to the most serious issues that were discussed during the week.

While both conferences looked at our industry from different perspectives, there were several common themes that surfaced in both:

  1. The tremendous upside opportunities ahead for us in floral. No one at either conference could identify another product that has the marketing potential of fresh flowers.
  2. The negative perceptions of the value of flowers currently held by consumers. Even among the 30% of households that do purchase flowers, one study showed only 50% of consumers thought they had purchased "fresh" flowers, only 28% thought that the flowers lasted long enough, and only 27% believed that they had gotten their money's worth!
  3. Broad acknowledgement that our industry is not reaching out to consumers effectively enough. Especially compared to other industries, flowers just don't seem to be high enough on consumer's radar.
  4. The tremendous need for clearly differentiated floral products available to consumers from the various retail models. Without a clear choice of flower value, consumers tend to believe that "all things being equal" the cheapest flowers are the best choice.
  5. The need for an industry-wide set of standards for growing, distributing, and handling fresh flowers. Both conferences covered the fact that these standards could very well lead to the solutions of the problems previously discussed.

Many conference attendees were amazed that we don't already have a set of standards as other perishables industries have. Currently, many companies develop their own purchasing and handling standards based on their individual quality assurance programs or their value propositions. But each of these is unique and depends on the individual company's perceptions, not necessarily on industry-wide acceptable standards.

Could adopting floral industry standards be the catalyst that propels us forward within this paradigm shift? A rapidly growing number of knowledgeable industry veterans believe that it is inevitable.



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Sustainable Flowers Make The Perfect Gift For All Occasions

Organic Bouquet is the largest online provider of eco-friendly and organic floral gifts. All of our flowers are grown in a manner that is not only environmentally friendly but also provides outstanding resources for farm workers and artisans. Organic Bouquet partners with select flower farms in California, Ecuador and Colombia. All of our flower farms follow stringent growing practices which are monitored by multiple certification agencies and associations. When you purchase flowers from Organic Bouquet, you are helping to improve the life of a flower farm worker, their family and the local floral community.

Our eco-friendly flower arrangements include roses, calla lilies, tulips, gerbera daisies, hyacinths, sunflowers, alstromeria lilies and blue iris. In addition to a complete line of flower arrangements, we offer gift baskets, fruit baskets, nut baskets, gourmet chocolates, gourmet cookies, plants and  wreaths. All of these products are certified eco-friendly and/or provide for environmental benefits through our participation in Carbon Offset programs.

Whatever the occasion, our flowers make the perfect gift- birthday celebration flowers, anniversary flowers, holiday flowers, or floral arrangements simply to say thank you. Sending flowers from Organic Bouquet says that you care not only about the person receiving the flowers, but also about the environment. All of our gift items are shipped nationwide to all 50 states. So whether you need to send flowers to Florida, New York, California, or Colorado, we can guarantee overnight delivery to ensure they arrive fresh and ready to put a smile on someone’s face.

Whether you are purchasing online, or through one of our customer service specialists, you can be assured you are ordering the freshest quality of flowers and environmentally friendly gifts.