NUAILLE, France: Challet-Hérault was started by René Hérault in 1892 in Cholet, France. In post-war France, Hérault partnered with Célestin Challet with the aim of creating, producing and promoting excellent potted Chrysanthemum and a wide range of bedding plants.
Working together with the German plant breeder Selecta, today’s Challet-Hérault is located in Nuaillé and is devoted to producing high quality young plants. They have a committed team of 46 FTE employees.
Johan Deshouillières, explained to FloraCulture International that Challet-Hérault are propagators first and foremost and dedicated to producing plants with a wow-effect. “Take multi-award winner Petunia ‘Nightsky’ from Selecta. It‘s a long-blooming, dreamy annual end-consumers easily fall in love with. ”
Deshouillières added that bringing dream into garden reality is more important than ever with the French ornamental horticulture industry going through difficult times. “Customers everywhere are tightening their wallets.”
He added, “Today it’s mainly about tracking prices to find the greatest bargains, but unfortunately, buying cheap can lead to spending more down the line. Solely focusing on low prices is not enough to satisfy customers, even in a struggling industry.”
What Deshouillières is mostly worried about these days are the ever-dwindling green space and horticulture budgets among councils and local authorities. “Villes et Villages Fleuris is without any doubt the largest horticultural campaign in France and worth its weight in gold. Over the years, it has demonstrated how colourful displays in cities and villages can make a real difference. It has also afforded a perfect opportunity to put annuals in the spotlight and highlight their incredible diversity.”
He continued, “But what’s happening now is that councils are looking to slash costs by planting more and more ornamental grasses. What’s more, the younger generation has no idea where even the most basic ornamentals, fruit and vegetables, come from, asking for French and field-grown tomatoes in December. So it’s important to educate and bring horticulture to the country’s young people.”
Pricing pressure remains a challenge for all “French plant retailers amid growing but continually weak consumer demand. “People are spending their money on other things than ornamental plants at the moment as they struggle to pay their energy bills and rent. And few French consumers, it seems, are prepared to forgo the luxury of a good meal,” said Deshouillières.
Operating from a12 ha location, Challet-Hérault has 4 ha of greenhouses. Production consists of around 30 million plug plants annually. Councils make up 50% of their customer base.
Challet-Hérault has a wide range of every type of annuals and perennials with potted Chrysanthemum (Melissa, Yooky, Bahia, Orchestra, Bella, Pipa, Qanuk, Colombine, Sunset and Frou-Frou series) Poinsettia and Aster (Astral series) being their flagship products.
According to unofficial data France’s potted Chrysanthemum production amounts to 23-25 million plants/year covering a production area of 5000-6000ha.
by Ron van der Ploeg