Debra Prinzing

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Episode 278: Slow Flowers’ 2017 Floral Insights & Industry Forecast

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Happy New Year and Welcome to the third annual Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights and Industry Forecast.

Unlike most TREND reports, this compilation tracks changing shifts, emerging ideas and new concepts that are taking hold in the American floral world.  Think of it as your Next, New and Now Report. These topics are gleaned from my conversations and interviews that took place with many of you during 2016– Slow Flowers members, including farmers, florists and creatives.  I know some of you have already experienced these emerging developments and your influence has inspired this list.

If you would like a copy of this report, please click here: 2017-floral-insights [PDF download]

I look forward to your reaction, thoughts, and input on the Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights and Industry Forecast, including the ideas and themes I may have overlooked! I invite you to share yours in the comment section below.

Let’s get started:

. In the midst of global floriculture, with trade in cut flowers estimated at more than $100 billion per year, $13 billion of which takes place in the U.S., we’ve been seduced by the notion that the world is our oyster (or flower field).

Mellano & Co. is a Certified American Grown flower farm.

Mellano & Co. is a Certified American Grown flower farm.

In many markets around the country, the wholesale florist is the only commercial cut flowers and foliage source for floral designers, flower shops and studios to purchase product.Yet after branding themselves as the only way to access a world of floral options, some wholesale florists are returning to their roots, at least in part. They are proactively sourcing from American flower farms large and small to stock their coolers and shelves. And beyond this step, many are also using signage and labeling to inform buyers of the origin of that product.

I believe the explosion of farmer-florists and the growth of small-scale floral agriculture in markets across North America has occurred in part because of frustration with the lack of or limited local sourcing by conventional wholesalers. Let me say that again: Farmer-Florists and small-scale floral agriculture have stepped into the gaping void created when wholesalers turned their backs on local flower farmers. And now they’re waking up to the missed opportunity.

The success of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, well-documented by me and on this podcast over the past several years, as well as the continued growth of the farmer-owned Oregon Flower Growers Association market in Portland underscore that demand for local flowers is already in place.

Now we are witnessing a shift among some conventional wholesalers to align their brand with American Grown and Locally-grown flowers. Mayesh Wholesale Florist is the most active in this arena, with active support for, American Flowers Week, Lisa Waud’s Flower House Detroit, and other sponsorships.

When Mayesh opened its renovated Portland, Oregon, branch in early November, the company asked me to make a design presentation. The team there was very supportive of my request for all locally-grown product — hat’s off to Mayesh and I certainly expect that their success at the cash register will motivate other conventional wholesale florists to get onboard.

I’ve previously singled out Santa Barbara-based Florabundance, led by Joost Bongaerts, for making the effort to label all California-grown floral and foliage offerings on his online wholesale site. It is an effective tool — one I hope others will emulate. It is certainly a step that demonstrates excellent customer service and an awareness that Florabundance shoppers want to know the origin of the flowers they purchase.

This past fall, I surveyed members for their take on a number of topics and trends. When I asked, “If you shop with Conventional Florists, are you finding more American grown and locally-grown product than in the past?” 70 percent of respondents said yes.

Here are a few of the specific comments to elaborate:

  • I request American grown from my Rep, and I think there are more boutique, seasonal items that are coming from smaller farmers
  • I have been asking my conventional wholesalers to bring in more American grown product and I think it is helping. The “American Grown” branding really helps us to know that is happening.
  • It’s definitely taking place and some people at the conventional wholesalers are proud to share that their products are American grown.

This last comment reflects that the industry still has far to go. One member noted:

  • It’s a toss up. They say they want to add more but I’m not sure if they are working really hard at. And they don’t do a very good job at advertising what is local and what is not. My Rep knows that I want American grown but still have to ask every time

. This insight is closely connected with item number one.

In general, the conventional wholesale model is changing, as traditional channels of floral distribution are disrupted. I predict that more flower farms will seek and establish new ways to bypass the conventional wholesale pipeline and market direct to florists and consumers. This is a hot topic and certainly one that’s hard to find anyone willing to go on record to discuss.
Our Slow Flowers survey revealed numerous sales channels among flower farmers. Granted, the majority of Slow Flowers farm-members are small-scale producers, but I believe they are the ones modeling how diversification and direct-to-florist commerce can succeed. When asked about their distribution channels, our respondents cited the following top three outlets:

  • Seventy percent are growing flowers for their own weddings and event clients;
  • This is followed closely by farms selling direct to other florists and wedding designers, at around 67 percent
  • With 53 percent of flower farms reporting they sell to local flower shops
    After this top tier, the percentages drop down to one third of respondents who sell flowers via farmers’ markets and CSA subscribers (basically consumer-direct) and about one-quarter who sell to local wholesalers and grocery/supermarket buyers.There is another farm-direct model, and here’s where I think the disruption is most revealing. A number of large farms are experimenting with direct-to-florist and direct-to-consumer models.

There is another farm-direct model and here’s where I think the disruption is most revealing. A number of large farms are experimenting with direct-to-florist and direct-to-consumer models. A few successful single-crop models have been in place, such as Danielle Hahn’s Rose Story Farm, which in the past few years has shifted almost completely away from selling through wholesalers to florist-direct fulfillment, and many of the Alaska peony growers who sell direct to florists and consumers.

Now, diversified, large-scale growers are beginning to spin off consumer-focused web shops, such as Sun Valley’s Stargazer Barn or Resendiz Brothers’ Protea Store. In the scheme of things, these new ventures are moving only a small fraction of their parent farms’ floral inventory.

But I predict that as large farms bend to demand for farm-direct sourcing of flowers (by consumers and florists alike), the path from field to bouquet will speed up and perhaps take fewer detours through brokers and wholesalers. That means fresher, more seasonal and better value for all floral customers.


SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Grocery Floral with New Seasons Markets’ Katie McConahay and Seattle Wholesale Growers Market’s Molly Sadowsky (Episode 156)

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
New Seasons Market in Portland Oregon - a rainbow of local flowers in the beautiful floral department.

New Seasons Market in Portland Oregon – a rainbow of local flowers in the beautiful floral department.

A New Seasons floral department creation.

A New Seasons floral department creation.

Did you know that more than 50 percent of all floral transactions in the U.S. take place at the supermarket cash register?

While that statistic may not bode well for the corner flower shop, it does represent opportunity for flower farmers who find a way to work with this ever-changing dynamic.

There are so many reasons for the shift from the corner flower shop to the grocery store, but according to my guests in today’s podcast one of its primary causes is time and convenience.

In other words, consumers are so pressed for time in all facets of their lives that the grocery store has become the one-stop place to purchase not just food, but so many other things.

Think about it: The grocery store, when done well, is now our coffee shop, our bank, our drug store, our greeting card store, our liquor/wine store, our bakery, our deli, and oh, yes, our flower shop.

Please enjoy today’s conversation about the fast-paced world of grocery floral – as I seek to understand where the opportunities are from two perspectives: the floral buyer (the supermarket) and the floral seller (the flower farmer).

"Slow Flowers" supermarket pioneer: Katie McConahay of New Seasons Markets.

“Slow Flowers” supermarket pioneer: Katie McConahay of New Seasons Markets.

Katie McConahay is the floral merchandiser for New Seasons Markets, a Portland-based chain of 13 neighborhood grocery stores. With the motto, “the friendliest store in town,” New Seasons nurtures its local suppliers.

On its web site you will find this message: “As a locally owned business, we take pride in supporting local farms, ranches and other small businesses through our Home Grown program.

“The Home Grown symbol points out products from produce and meat to hand lotions and scented candles that come from local companies. So, you can support the local and regional economy with your dollars. And we can further our strong commitment to sustainable agriculture.”

Unfortunately, there is a lot of lip-service paid to LOCAL and I’ve witnessed first-hand the amount of green-washing that can take place at grocery stores that tell their shoppers one thing and then do something completely opposite that . . . such as trying to pass off imported flowers as local or simply not caring enough to properly label the sources.

More flowers at New Seasons Market.

More flowers at New Seasons Market.

After getting to know Katie over the past year, I have to say how impressed I am with her philosophy of transparency about the origins of the flowers she and her employer sell. “Not many people think of buying local when it comes to flowers. Making beautiful selections available from local growers is how we’re making a difference, one stem at a time.”

A CA-Grown floral display at one ohe Portland area New Seasons.

A CA-Grown floral display at one Portland area New Seasons.

Katie began her career in floral at the age of 15 when she took a position as a floral clerk at a local grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Early on she decided that she wanted to make unique and beautiful flowers available to everyone, even daily grocery shoppers.  She went on to become the youngest ever floral manager for Wisconsin’s largest grocery chain by the age of 18, taking her department to number one in sales in a region with over 60 stores.

Katie has been involved in all facets of the floral industry, from large scale grocers to small, elegant design studios in Portland.

She found her “happy medium” in the New Seasons Market floral program where she began as a floral manager in 2010, eventually assuming the head merchandising position in 2012.  Since that time she has nurtured the floral program to unprecedented growth levels adding dozens of local and California vendors in 2014.

Katie remains committed to cultivating relationships with local growers and promoting a sustainable, local floral program that supports small growers while continuing to supply the 13 New Seasons Markets with the very best that the floral industry has to offer.

Molly Sadowsky of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Molly Sadowsky of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

When I visited Portland last month I scheduled an interview with Katie and I asked her predecessor at New Seasons, Molly Sadowsky, to join us.

Molly (left) and Katie (right), joined other American-grown advocates to discuss the future of domestic flower farming and floral  selling at the CCFC gathering last fall in Portland.

Molly (left) and Katie (right), joined other American-grown advocates to discuss the future of domestic flower farming and floral selling at the CCFC gathering last fall in Portland.

Goodies at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Goodies at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Molly, the program manager at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, was the link who first introduced me to Katie. That’s when we all attended the California Cut Flower Commission’s field-to-vase dinner held in Portland last October where I was invited to speak.

At the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a cooperative of Northwest flower growers in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, Molly oversees the selling of flowers to grocery customers and maintaining a year-round floral inventory.

Oregon-grown roses from farmer to florist.

Oregon-grown roses from farmer to florist.

Washington-grown dahlias, from farmer to florist.

Washington-grown dahlias, from farmer to florist.

Molly is such a valuable asset at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. One reason is her background, having previously built and ran the floral program at New Seasons Market in Portland where she initiated a seasonal buying program that relied on product from 80 growers, including more than 50 in Oregon.

Molly embraced the buy-local philosophy as a restaurant owner in the early 2000s, when she forged relationships with local farmers to supply her vegetarian breakfast-and-lunch café. Molly lives in Portland with her husband, Dan, and their six-year-old Belgian Malinois, Leyna.

Thanks to listeners like you, this flower-powered podcast has been downloaded more than 18,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

This podcast was engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at