Trends and marketing

“Today companies and organizations run marketing campaigns to increase flower and plant sales. This is good, but the end results of these campaigns are not successful. Instead of causing market growth, they cannibalize each other. Royal FloraHolland thinks the basis for these marketing activities is insufficient. What we need are sectoral assumptions. We’ve created them in Growth Platforms.”

So says Royal FloraHolland’s CCO, Servaas van der Ven, pointing out that worldwide operating brands use similar general assumptions. “Coca-Cola communicates a limited number of messages (for instance, that drinking Coke makes you happy). Somewhere in time this company truth became consumers’ truth. If we could link health or happiness to flowers and plants by repeating the same message time and again, the same truth would materialize.  Since floral communications have a variety of messages, no consumer understands what we are saying as a brand.”

“Every company needs a personal profile in communicating,” Servaas continues. “We do understand that. All we want is consistent, integrated assumptions when someone communicates about flowers and plants. Therefore, we developed these nine platforms. We have already discussed them with customers and sectoral organizations. They agree with our targets. At the next Royal FloraHolland Trade Fair we will visualize our platforms in order to start talks with sector partners about more consistent communication in regards to trends and developments in ornamental products. Together we have to give a consistent message to the market. Royal FloraHolland itself does not communicate to consumers, so we have to work together with our growers and customers.

Nine platforms for growth

Royal FloraHolland has developed nine growth platforms in order to communicate more consistently about flowers and plants. Between 2017 and 2020 RFH sees additional sales opportunities with the first four platforms.

Health & well-being: people live longer and want to live to the max, with a healthy mind in a healthy body. Flowers make you happier and friendlier; plants filter the air you breath. There’s scientific proof that flowers and plants contribute to human health, which could create a unique buying rationale.

Connecting friends: society digitizes and individualizes, thus creating distance between people. But social contacts contribute to happiness. Flowers and plants underline friendship, social and physical contacts. They are tokens of love and affection. Communication should stimulate physical contact with flowers and plants.

Celebrate seasons: every season has its charms and attributes. People like winter flowers when it’s freezing and colour at the break of spring. Seasonals keep consumers from getting bored with ornamental plants. Sales can be stimulated by focusing on the impermanence of the assortment.

Interior: people use their homes not only for living, but also for working and decorating it with love to create a welcoming atmosphere. Through the use of flowers and plants consumers express their personal style in each of their various living spaces.

Colour everyday: flowers and plants always bring joy no matter where you put them. You can’t go wrong with flowers and plants because they contribute to instant happiness.

Express yourself: flowers and plants can always be personalised. Modern, classic, artistic or retro, the assortment is always wide enough and the possibilities are endless.

Gifting: flowers and plants are the perfect gift for any occasion. Giving them means that you’re compassionate. And someone else’s smile will make you happy in return.

Gardening: in any size garden and on any balcony or terrace garden, bedding plants or perennials can be used to express yourself and caress your senses.

Do you remember: people of many cultures value flowers and plants at emotional moments in their lives. They make you happier when you are happy, they support you when you mourn. All of this in a very personal way.

Trend watching

At the Royal FloraHolland Trade Fair Aalsmeer and IFTF Vijfhuizen thousands of people will come to see what’s new and hot. No doubt they hope to see new trends that can give their product an extra boost. But how do you recognize a trend when you see one? That’s what we asked Sandra Könings, a Dutch trend analyst with an abundance of experience in the world of fashion, interiors, flowers and plants.

“Trend watching is a profession. Since I’m not an expert on plants I cannot always see the difference between various qualities. I don’t count buds, I look at green in a different way. If trend watching is not your forte, don’t expect to recognize many trends. If your focus is mainly on the product, it will be a hard job finding trends at a fair. It’s a waste of time. You’d be better off sending an employee who is adept at discovering trends. He will see things you would never see.”

“Focus on what your own company needs. Don’t think you will able to find completely new trends at a flower fair. Because completely new trends are presented elsewhere. You have to be an expert to recognize them.

It’s better to take stock of your own company first. What are your aims and your values? What type of consumers do you want to produce for? Are they the early adopters or late bloomers ? It‘s better to look for things your focus group will like in the coming years than to look for fleeting new trends. And don’t stick to your own product. If you want to be an innovative orchid grower, don’t just look at what other innovative growers are doing. Following your colleagues will only lead to copying which commercially is the road to more of the same. That’s often hell for your price and margin. It’s better to look at innovations in other green product groups (or outside the horticultural world).

At the same time it’s good to see what your competitors do, but that’s not trend watching. Don’t spend the entire trade fair in your booth; take a walk and find things that no one else sees.”

“There is a difference between seeing something and remembering it. So keep your camera close at hand and shoot as many pictures as you can. Once you are home, review your pictures and study them. You will see things in the photos that you didn’t see when you were taking them.”

“Visiting a green fair is smart. But read fashion magazines, surfing the Internet, following instagramers, going shopping or visiting other trade shows can be just as useful. And if you really want to discover new trends, ask an expert to accompany you. You could even attend my trend presentation (which is November 16). And never forget: although trends are predictable, you cannot predict when a trend will reach the masses and to what extent they will embrace it. Something can simultaneously be big in the Netherlands and a disaster in Germany.“

Trade Fairs

For people who are interested in horticulture there are year-round reasons to visit the Netherlands. But from November 8- 10 there are two extra reasons: the Royal FloraHolland Trade Fair Aalsmeer and IFTF Vijfhuizen. In brief, we’ll tell you what to look for.

 The floral business is full of new developments. Sustainability, digitalization and globalization are keywords for both production and trade. Royal FloraHolland is dedicated to making the chain more sustainable and to the development of a global, digital trading platform for flowers and plants. Gauge your success in the Green Age at the Royal FloraHolland House at the Trade Fair Aalsmeer.

At IFTF Vijfhuizen all industry segments are represented: products, suppliers, business channels, investors, etc. Visiting IFTF Vijfhuizen offers ample opportunity to learn from each other.

Visiting both fairs will widen your perspective on industry developments.

Royal FloraHolland Trade Fair: meeting, sharing knowledge, inspire and be inspired

Within 24,000 square meters, 700 exhibitors will show the best they’ve got to 16,000 visitors. The Royal FloraHolland Home of Opportunities is centrally located at the Trade Fair for people to meet, share knowledge, inspire and be inspired. There is a special program with interesting highlights:

  • Aafje Nijman presents the 2018 green trends (read more about it on page 32);
  • Several presentations by Let it Grow, creating awareness of the value of flowers and plants;
  • A workshop about online marketing by Nancy Berendsen and the Flower Council of Holland;
  • Workshops from Floriday, the new online platform from Royal FloraHolland;
  • Key note speakers on issues such as sustainability, marketing and digitalization.

As always the Trade Fair Aalsmeer is full of new and existing varieties of flowers and plants with all the added value you can think of and with the whole industry in attendance.

IFTF, World of Flowers

IFTF has expanded from 12,000 to 22,000 square meters and will be as interesting as ever. IFTF has at least two strengths : there are many international exhibitors and visitors and there is a strong focus on floristry with the event World of Flowers. There will be workshops on subjects that include:

  • What is the value of colour?
  • How do you tempt consumers by using fragrance?
  • How to become a winner in a digital future?

Another part of World of Flowers is the battle of the  florists for the Wim Hazelaar Trophy. And there will be floral demos by extraordinary florists.

Both the Royal FloraHollandTrade Fair Aalsmeer and IFTF Vijfhuizen will be held from November 8-10. TheRoyal FloraHolland Trade Fair is open from 09:00 to 17:00 ( Friday from 09:00 to 15:00). The IFTF is open each day from 10:00 to 18:00.

More info on the Royal FloraHolland Trade Fair Aalsmeer:

More info on IFTF:


At various places in the world the supply chain of ornamental products is organized in different ways. Many cities have wholesale markets. In France these markets are even protected by law. In other countries wholesale is done by traders who collect their products regionally or internationally. In Vancouver, Canada, an auction has significant influence on the floral business. UFG’s CEO Bob Pringle has the story.

Vancouver based auction UFG was founded in 1963.

“Vancouver has a good climate for growing flowers and plants (like the Netherlands). In those days there was a group of flower growers, mainly of Dutch heritage. They knew the Dutch auction system and wanted their own auction to gain control over marketing and pricing. As the city of Vancouver grew and local wholesalers and retailers discovered UFG’s assortment, the organization grew. Now customers from the Vancouver and Seattle regions buy at UFG.

The auction has about eighty members, all flower growers and many with Dutch roots.”

Half of UFG’s turnover is sold to wholesalers.

“The other half goes to independent retailers, florists, garden centres and independent grocers. A new sales organization, United Floral Inc., was developed two years ago. It deals primarily with florists and independent retailers and enables UFG to do direct business with larger retailers. The sales organization sources for growers who are UFG members and those who are not. United Floral Inc. can take care of the complete transaction: sourcing, packaging, value adding and logistics, thus strengthening the position of UFG, its members and its customers.

UFG’s florist sales are remarkably stable, but plant sales have declined as many independent garden centres in the Vancouver area have not grown and larger plant retailers tend to do business directly with growers without UFG’s involvement. So UFG’s position in flowers is stronger than it is in plants. UFG sells imported flowers via its clock system and buyers can source import flowers through United Floral Inc. The turnover of the UFG co-op including clock, greenhouse and direct sales is 44 million Canadian dollars. United Floral Inc. has a turnover of 22 million Canadian dollars.”

The Vancouver region is only a small part of British Columbia.

“The further away you travel from UFG, the less share we have in flower sales. In the whole province of British Columbia annual plant and flower farm gate sales come to 270 million Canadian dollars. Of that amount, plant sales were nearly 200 million. Many types and varieties of flowers can be grown in this area. It is a consumer trend that seasonal products like peonies, sunflowers, dahlias and other small crops draw more attention.”

If UFG didn’t exist…

“… we would have less local products, which would mean less freshness, diversity and seasonal flowers. But UFG’s position is solidly based on cooperative principles of innovative growers. Our clock system certainly is of regional influence and with United Floral Inc. we can help any type of customer. We think this is a winning combination.”


Canada, the world’s second largest country, has 36 million inhabitants. Most of them live no more than 200 kilometres north of the US border. Off course this influences horticulture. Urban areas (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver) have vivid floral markets, but finding a good flower shop near the Polar Circle is a challenge.

 The market

Canadians more and more use flowers in everyday life (but less than Europeans do). Many grocery stores sell cut flowers and potted plants at affordable prices. Florists have a market in special occasions like weddings and funerals but they have to be inventive and creative to keep it. Retailers strengthen their market position in flower sales. Forty years ago many flower sales in the Toronto area were done by small convenience or grocery shops. But the shop owners children became teachers or lawyers and so the small shops were closed.

The market of garden centres shows an upscaling. Many small garden centres disappeared. They couldn’t compete with larger retailers and garden centres and/or sold their property for urban expansion. In the larger garden centres of today the percentage of green products falls and the percentage of non-green products rises. Still sales of green products rise too, not only sold by garden centres but also for landscaping.

The competition

In cut flowers Canadian growers have a growing competition from Latin America and Africa. Energy and labour cost, but also stricter environmental regulations weaken the Canadians position and led to a shrink in local production of Chrysanthemums and Carnations. But Canada do have an outlet in exporting to the USA (as long as a Canadian dollar is worth less than 85 US cents). Therefore Canadian growers are continuously searching for good new varieties.

The heritage

Many Canadian growers have a Dutch background. Their father, grandfather of great-grandfather moved to Canada and continued what he had done at home by starting a nursery. Many of their ancestors still have connections with the old motherland. It is no coincidence that the Vancouver flower auction was based upon Dutch examples. Growers who force bulbs still buy their stock from Dutch companies. But it is virtually impossible to get good European Chrysanthemum varieties across the Atlantic Ocean. Older people (who can still read Dutch) still read Dutch trade magazines and find new ideas and developments in them.

But cuttings for the plant production mainly are bought in Central or South America. This shows how the market is maturing. Canada has its own market of ornamental products, which by the way has certain similarities with the US ornamental market. This means breeders, growers, wholesalers, retailers and florist try to adapt to the specific need of this market. But relations with Europe (and the Netherlands) remain, especially in trying to find new, promising varieties.

Thanks to Rita Weerdenburg (Canadian Nursery Landscape Association) and Peter Kralt (Kralt Greenhouses)


North American flower and plant sales differ from elsewhere. The continent is a melting pot, mainly of various European cultures. Ornamental plants have become very popular in Europe and India but this isn’t true of the US or Canada. Why?

 History might explain why. On the one hand, America is strongly influenced by the Pilgrim Fathers, English Protestants from a strict sect. In 1621, after having lived in Holland for twelve years, they moved to Massachusetts. They didn’t want worldly pleasures to keep them away from God and religion. Ornamental plants were considered worldly.

On the other hand rich Americans spend lots of money on flowers for special occasions

History also explains why American horticulture is relatively small. European cities have existed since the early Middle Ages, being surrounded by farms and nurseries providing food (and flowers and plants since circa 1900) for city dwellers. Until the 1870s, America had few large cities so nurseries didn’t develop like their European counterparts. Later transport systems enabled citizens to get their food and flowers from distant places. So local American production lacked development.

Currently 75% of all US cut flowers are produced in California (and tulips in Oregon) but the vast majority of US flowers are purchased from South America. The Dutch have only a minor share, mainly in niche products although they still have a good name, being considered the cradle of floristry.

Colombia exports its flowers to the US with zero tariff. Colombian growers developed their own logistic and administrative facilities in Miami. Phyto sanitarian facilities are available there 24/7. Transport facilities (truck transport) are there in abundance. Most Americans live in the eastern part of the continent (east of the Mississippi) within a reasonable distance from Miami.

Africa could be a tough competitor to Colombia and other Latin American producers, but they are subject to custom tariffs and lack a strong foothold in populous American regions.

Americans mainly use flowers for special occasions but are increasingly buying them for use at home. This development was brought about due to supermarkets. While America has florists of various skill levels, large cities like New York, Boston, Chicago or LA offer the best of the best. In the middle of nowhere, flowers may only be available in supermarkets and floristry may not be that good.

Most home and garden plants are American grown because it is illegal to import plants with soil. Therefore it’s impossible to import plants to the US at all. This is likely the reason why 46% of US ornamental consumption consists of garden and bedding plants, 20% of houseplants and only 34% of cut flowers.

The American ornamental market is changing and developing like all markets do, in good part thanks to the internet. But culture, customs and connections have created a particular market that will differ from others in the future.


The essence

Talking with Jeroen Mettepenningen is about getting back to basics. Jeroen is the Managing Director of D&M Depot, a Belgian creator of pottery. D&M Depot, being fully aware of current trends, considers plants and flowers to be the starting point for their creations.

“Pots should be decorative but they must be utilitarian. They have to be waterproof. The original plant pot must fit in perfectly. A pot you create for bonsai trees or Japanese maples has to be weatherproof. And you have to realize that some roots grow deep and others grow wide. So we choose to make pots in which roots can breathe. ”

“Today blue is a trendy colour, yet we do not develop blue pottery. Of course we look at trendy colours for our new pots and vases. But blue can hardly be combined with plants. So no blue pots from D&M Depot. In creating new colours and shapes we visit fairs, we follow the clothing industry and we work with a Belgian trend watching agency. They search for trends in flowers and plants and follow growers in their innovations. We see a growing desire for locally produced, handmade pottery.”

“Flowers and plants are increasingly sold in atypical environments. Plant/pot or flower/vase combinations are sold in clothing stores, coffee shops, furniture and concept stores by people who are not experts in their care and handling. That’s why our creations have to be trendy but also technically perfect.”

“The added value is in the plant, not in the pot. Some pottery suppliers constantly create new products emphasizing the pot. We choose to focus on high-end pottery for people who see flowers and plants as the perfect gift, especially in emerging markets like China, Japan and the USA. Our pottery has to be both trendy and beautiful and has to improve the plants’ or flowers’ life.”

“Communicating with clients is important. Twice a year we share our developments with florists. Our worldwide operating agents often have a background in floristry. At shows we try to inspire visitors with special plant/pot and flower/vase combinations. Inspiring clients has to be our USP (unique selling proposition). We know flowers and plants are the essence of what we create. That’s how people know us and we stick to that.”



You would think that breeders of ornamental plants would be fully aware of consumer trends. But it takes four years to grow a tulip bulb that can be forced and 25 years’ lead time to accumulate enough stock of a new tulip variety . New varieties of other flowers and plants can be created in less time. But adapting to actual consumer trends is virtually  impossible.

 Tulip: improving resistance

With a 25-year lead time, breeding tulips to follow trends is useless. Fortunately, in a  normal assortment all colours are present. Breeders do focus on new shapes like double tulips and parrot tulips, but that will not change the assortment in one or two years. Breeders also focus on more resistant varieties since bulb growers have to fight plagues and diseases with a decreasing arsenal  of fertilizers and plant protectors.

Bringing back the lead time of new tulip varieties from 25 years to ten years wouldn’t change the fact that you cannot breed tulips on the basis of consumer trends. Tulip forcers have to add value to keep up with trends.

Perennials, limited possibilities

Depending on the variety, the lead time for new perennials lies between four and seven years for selecting and propagating. Only with very promising novelties can this time be shortened. So breeding for consumer trends is virtually impossible.

Still breeders are keen on trends. Sometimes novelties are kept in stock to be introduced later if they fit into a consumer trend (like vertical gardening). But since breeding is the art of throwing things away, there is only a limited number of varieties in stock.

Fortunately consumer trends in perennials develop slowly. So there is only a limited need to breed for trend changes.

Gerbera, the market decides

Although Gerbera only has a two year lead time, consumer trends aren’t unanimously leaning towards breeding novelties. Changes in preference develop organically , taking more time. Some years ago colours had to be hard; nowadays they are softer.

The major Gerbera breeders see to it that market demand is being reflected in breeding programmes. In the long run they see whether the demand is for single or double flowers or for flowers in special shapes (like spider Gerberas). On the other hand, there are fixed ratios between the various colours within the assortment. But you do need market knowledge to pick the right varieties out of thousands of seedlings.

Pot Chrysanthemums , trends out of your stock

A lead time of four to five years is too long to adapt to current trends. But in Pot Chrysanthemums you can stock good varieties and introduce them if they fit in with a trend. You shouldn’t introduce a red variety if everyone asks for white. So breeders introduce novelties they belief in and find good growers with whom to introduce them.

Breeding is about cultivation technology like reaction time, resistance and production. Sometimes breeders look for special varieties to be introduced on short notice but this is not standard procedure.

Consumer trends

Once upon a time growers could be successful just by growing the best quality crops possible. Today consumers have so many choices that producers must find a niche to set themselves apart. Being distinctive means you have to know your consumer and this requires knowledge of consumer trends.


Aleia Roses, a Spanish rose nursery, sells its Red Naomi’s at Royal FloraHolland in Aalsmeer. Will Zuiderwijk, Aleia’s Dutch Sales Director, wants to know more about his clients and eventually about their customers. Therefore, he works together with trend and consumer expert Francine van Wijk of The Floral Agency ( who supports the company in marketing and communications in several European countries.

Different opinions

Francine defines consumer trends as “a combination of relevant developments within society that influence consumer behaviour. Some say that consumer trends are makeable. I think trendsetters are inspired by what happens in society, too. Nevertheless good marketing can help companies in creating trends (or rather, strengthening them). You can define trends on three levels: mega-trends (10-30 years), maxi-trends (5-10 years) and micro-trends (1-5 years). In the current decade, nature and greening your environment are  considered important which can also be explained as the time spirit. Look at urban and rooftop farming, for example.

Trend-wise, consumers can be separated into innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Innovators start a trend, laggards end it. In this world of social media, trends tend to develop faster than they did twenty years ago as online networks spread news much faster.”

An entrance to consumer

“Our aim at Aleia Roses is to grow the world’s best Red Naomi roses,” says Will. “We started recently and we want to get in touch with clients, trade professionals and consumers. We want to know what they want and what they expect from our product. A rose is not just a rose, it is a story, it is about emotions. We can inspire people by communicating about it, thus targeting the product to the needs of people buying it. Trends come into focus in this targeting. To understand your consumers you have to understand the trends that inspire them. Not necessarily the exact picture that is popular at a certain moment, but the way of thinking on which this picture is based.”

Customer journey

“In order to understand trends and be able to adapt to them, you must watch the time spirit,” says Francine. “For me, the trend insights given by the Flower Council of Holland are useful. They help us present products (for instance, Red Naomi roses) in pictures and text thus reaching our target group. Besides that, you must always bear in mind that it is important to know the customer journey of your product or service. If you follow your customer’s activities and preferences you will find out what their motivation is. And when you know that, you can reach them more effectively. If the consumer I want to reach appears to visit festivals we’ll focus on festivals. If they buy online, we’ll go online. Be where the customer is!”

Preference position

For Will Zuiderwijk this helps in creating a top-of-mind position for Aleia’s Red Naomi roses. “Quality is the basis of all, that on which we built our marketing, aiming to be distinctive for wholesalers, retailers, florists and consumers. Be good and express it. It’s Aleia Roses ambition to create a brand in which the word Aleia stand for the best red roses money can buy, like Bentley or Moët et Chandon. Knowledge about preferences and social trends help us give our roses the look and feel that matches our product.”


Read more about Aleia Roses at

Doing digital

Digitalisation and the Internet have changed retail sales enormously and further changes will occur according to Cor Molenaar. As a professor of e-marketing he studies the influence of the Internet on buying behaviour at Rotterdam Erasmus University.

 How about the history of digitalisation?

“In digitalisation there are waves. The first wave included automating company processes, for example shops with cash registers and barcodes. Since 2000, people have used the Internet more frequently for information and to buy goods. The rise of the iPhone and Facebook accelerated this development. The Internet became a daily routine for millions of people leading to more transparency, more communication and more Internet sales.

The next wave is creating platforms on which a product manifests itself, which will accelerate in 2019, renewing culture, processes, relations, retail, etc. People buy Nike’s at Alibaba, because at Alibaba Nike manifests itself. AirBnB only facilitates house rentals. So why go to a bank if you can secure a loan from a private entity on the Internet?”

How about the floral industry?

“Until now, companies were ‘doing digital’ instead of ‘being digital’. Doing digital means monitoring processes and improving digitally. Being digital means building a business model, based on digital achievements.

Growers are doing digital in their growing process when influencing humidity in their greenhouses. They could be digital using the Internet of things to create new trade changes. Why must fresh products be sold by supermarkets? Why can’t growers do so themselves? Why do breeders base most of their activities on the input of growers, wholesalers and florists instead of digitally approaching consumers? Why doesn’t every rose carry a chip so the grower knows when his flowers end up in the garbage and can react to that. Being digital is about your added value in this process of changes. The Internet enables you to be proactive.

As in other industries, unnecessary parts of the floral chain will disappear. This displacement, by the way, is a major cause of current low inflation rates. Banks, for instance, have shiploads of offices and managers and a matching cost level. Their new digital competitors have no offices and managers, thus operating much cheaper.

Being digital means being approachable, flexible and transparent. It means fishing where there’s fish, at Alibaba or Amazon. Yes, they can sell fresh flowers when you help them to. Yes, they will ask money for that, but only if they sell your flowers. And they will reach more consumers than you can imagine.”

So if you were a grower…?

“… I would start a platform on which anyone could hitch on. But remember this: per each unique market there is only room for one or two platforms. Only when you can unite buyers and sellers will you survive. If you cannot be a good front runner, you’d better be a good follower. And if you start a platform, act like a start-up. Being digital means creating a company that acts digitally, without buildings, trucks or people. The more flexible, the better. In fact, you don’t even need a greenhouse.”