NAALDWIJK, The Netherlands: Potted roses on retail shelves that are a feast for the senses. Launching at different European supermarkets is the distinctly Dolc’ Amore® brand combining – amongst others – superior genetics from Danish rose breeder Rosa Eskelund Roses Forever and the quality, trust, and reliability from flowering plant grower Pligt Professionals from Heinenoord, the Netherlands. The ultimate goal is to create brand loyalty and to capture repeat customers.
Flowering pot plant grower Gert van der Pligt is open and honest about it. Wandering through the produce department of a local supermarket would often lead to feelings of envy. The finest, neatly labeled and branded selection of produce, a well-thought out floorplan and proper lighting always seemed to automatically lure in customers, while the flower shop, often located in a windy area near the exit of the store was not something to entice customers, to say the least. Back in his greenhouse, he rolled up his sleeves and started to develop a differentiation strategy that would be key to his competitive advantage.
Fully automated business
Pligt Professionals take pride in being Europe’s largest grower of potted indoor Begonias, producing 250,000 plants per week for big-box retailers. Additionally they grow Campanula, potted Chrysanthemums, Poinsettia, Princettia, Gentiana, Cyclamen and more recently potted miniature roses. “Our annual production currently stands in excess of 1 million plants. Of course we had our fair share of peaks and valleys in the market, but in general one can say the market demand has been growing and that we succeeded in being better connected to the end consumer: female shoppers, 30 years or older, open-minded and willing to try new products,” said Pligt.
Surprise and delight
Surveys indicate that of the 30% of retail shoppers in search of new products, roughly 33% notice the brand packaging and sales display.
“Ten years ago we changed our strategy, thoroughly analysing the demand to pick up the latest signals and shape the demand by launching promotional strategies, product branding and typically seasonal crops. Today, our production divides the year into four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter with two or three new plant releases each quarter. We are always working to surprise and delight our customers to provide them each month with premium quality plants backed by innovative and consistent marketing and branding.”
The year 2014 marked the launch of the consumer brand Dolc’Amore. Pligt emphasises that this is not just another word for a new logo. “We conducted extensive market research by partnering with experts and developed a shop-in-shop area to sell potted plants in the famous Dutch department store Bijenkorf. We did some test marketing of several plants for the high end market. The most important thing we learned was that at retail a brand has five seconds to capture a consumer’s attention. And that besides the right quality crop at the right moment, the overall quality of the market introduction, including packaging, appeal, consumer website, POP material, art work and irresistible displays are all equally important. Subsequently, we established a new company Flower Design & Services which grants Dolc’Amore licenses to Dutch growers. Currently, ten growers are using the brand, but we also source ornamentals from outside to sell them under the Dolc’Amore label. So the brand also includes a little bit of trading to complete the product portfolio. We work, for example, with a flower factory which provides us with mixed bouquets designed by top notch florists. Basically we returned to our reason for being; helping consumers create their dream home by providing them a home décor item with truly added value. For too long the business has been ruled by cost price and price promotions.”
Revolutionary Infinity roses
Dolc’Amore includes fresh cut flowers, potted plants but also seasonal arrangements, waxed bulbs and home décor items. Gert soon realised that to make shoppers dream, the premium brand couldn’t possibly do without the most romantic of potted plants, roses.
In 2011, he met Rosa Eskelund, the dynamic rose breeder from Denmark with whom he immediately shared the brand vision and its values. From the outset he was blown away by Eskelund’s revolutionary line of potted Infinity roses.
Pondering over the 40,000 different items an average supermarket carries, the difficulties to stand out from the crowd, the persistence it requires to convince supermarket chains to give up floor space to private flower and plant labels, he said, “We are always keen for specialties and when Rosa presented her line of miniature roses we immediately understood that these seamlessly fitted our ‘surprise-and-delight’ sales strategy with premium quality and drop dead gorgeous looks leaving long lasting impressions at the consumer level.”
Gert believes that even on supermarket shelves his plant can create a wow effect and boost flower and plant sales. “When we produce for Ikea or Morrisons little branding is needed as these stores already make their plants stand out from the crowd. But when some retailer or flower shop prefers to make the difference then we produce Dolc’Amore plants. The bigger the retailer, the more difficult it is to introduce a private label. Although even the big box stores are now beginning to understand that 30 to 40% of sold flowers are used as a gift and that the presentation and quality of flowers on the supermarket floor needs to be improved in terms of positioning themselves as a retailer of floral gifts. The marketing formula is under testing and further development at some franchises of AH, Jumbo and Plus. Most important is that we can show grocery stores that selling flowers really can be fun and even profitable. Branding pot plants is nice but intensive, before you know it you’ve visited flower shops three to four times a week.”
Gert concludes that through the collaboration with his customers, developing attractive store displays, a beautiful product can create a blooming future for consumers, supply chain partners and growers alike. “Dolc’Amore is just the beginning.”