Flowers With a Green Pedigree
The Sunday Times
The potatoes in your supermarket trolley are organic and the peas have been grown without pesticides. But look closer at the flowers in the display by the door and you will find very little that is earth-friendly, writes Catherine Wheatley.
While British consumers may have embraced organic products, spending more than £1 billion on naturally grown goods last year. In America shoppers can buy organic blooms at their local store.
Californian entrepreneur Gerald Prolman has created a new category in the eco-friendly products market by hunting down blooms grown without chemical fertilisers or insecticides, and supplying them to US retailers under his Organic Bouquet label. Customers can also buy fresh-cut bunches from his website, OrganicBouquet.com.
His business is flourishing in America where several leading wholefood grocery chains stock Organic Bouquet's range of sunflowers, roses and other fresh-cut blooms.
Last year the company had sales of $3.5m (£1.9m), about 2% of the overall American flower sector. Prolman has no plans to expand into Europe, so the British market could be ripe for the picking.
Surprisingly, the $15 price of a dozen organic red roses is almost exactly the same as the cost of chemically treated stems, even though organic farming methods are for more labour-intensive.
"We pay our farmers a premium so we cut back on marketing costs instead," Prolman explained.
"We used word-of-mouth to tap the huge, pent-up demand for eco-friendly products."
The company's biggest challenge has been to find growers who will supply organic blooms.
At present Prolman buys from a handful of cultivators in the Netherlands, South Africa, Ecuador, Columbia and California.
Britain, too, has its share of organic farmers growing blooms for sale at their gates.
But if you think they could find a wider market, then it might be time to see if you could reap rewards from this seed of a new business idea.