Although some European growers still believe their African counterparts are not well-informed on sustainability, sustainable production is high on agendas in countries like Kenya.

 Nearly every Kenyan farm has any certificate their customers might request, an expert told us. So their eyes are open, although it is hard to see if these certificates are only an obligation or the result of internal conviction. But the certificates depend on solid checks which are then often double-checked by European retailers.

The sustainability issue in Kenya may be primarily market-driven, but the issue gets extra attention in production and transport. The variety of labels worries many Kenyans, too, and there is always a risk that retailers will put further demands on sustainability issues which would lead to more complexity and pressure on resources. Another risk it that growers won’t be able to fulfill every demand consumers or retailers request.

A daily, solid, checkable registration

Recently Royal FloraHolland’s Managers Sustainability & CSR visited Kenya to discuss sustainability issues. “We had excellent discussions. We were able to advise growers in the world of changing market demand and changing availability of certification and registration programs in Kenya and worldwide. It is important that they start or continue a daily, solid, checkable registration on the use of agrochemicals in the production and use of water. I am happy with the role the Kenyan Flower Council (KFC) takes, but this element isn’t yet completely in the KFC certificates, as it is in MPS certificates, for example. It is good that KFC and Kenyan authorities have created export licenses, but should KFC control these certificates themselves?”

“I know that many Kenyan growers are well under way on sustainability issues, but I know others aren’t. By the year 2020, 90% of the traded flowers and plants worldwide should be produced by the Basket of Standards of the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI). In simple terms, this means they have to be produced under label (see also page 37 of this magazine). This could mean flowers and plants produced outside the Basket of Standards would no longer be welcome at major outlet channels. FSI created the Basket of Standards to protect ethical growers from growers who don’t care about the environmental, legal and social implications of sustainability. The European market asks for sustainably-produced flowers and plants and consumers ask for transparency. It is time to create and implement it.”

Combining our push

“The planet is asking for it. We want it. And our clients are requesting it. That’s why Royal Lemkes is working on sustainability issues,” says Managing Director Michiel de Haan.

 Royal Lemkes is a large, Dutch wholesale company, specializing in plant sales to sizable European retailers. Michiel de Haan and Elise Wieringa (Quality Assurance & Sustainability) told us how their company approaches sustainability.

Bottom up.

“Some twenty Royal Lemkes employees from a cross section of the organisation looked at the issue of sustainability. We decided that our impetus should be what we want to achieve as a company, what our customers want and what the planet needs. So we formulated six themes. Three of them, climate, raw materials and biodiversity, are ecologically-oriented. The other three, well-being/health/society, labour conditions in the supply chain and our own employees, are people-oriented.”


Loyal to our roots.

“Royal Lemkes has a green heart with three ingredients: a grower’s history since 1882, lots of knowledge about plants and a sustainable heart. For our current owner, Cees van der Meij, and his predecessor, Hans Lemkes, sustainability is not just a word, it has always been a conviction. So we do not strive for maximum profits but rather sufficient profit to keep our company running and innovative. The impact of what we do for our employees, our customers and the planet is at least as important as our profit. This is who we are. Thus, our slogan is ‘Let’s plantify ® the future. Together.’

We believe in plants because they brighten up lives, strengthen the business of our trading partners and contribute to a sustainable world. Therefore, we feel privileged to work in this industry.”

Faster than the slowest one.

“We believe in cooperation and we also believe in leadership. If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. But going with the entire group gets us nowhere. So we create coalitions, for example with fellow wholesale companies Dutch Flower Group, Waterdrinker and FleuraMetz and with Royal FloraHolland. This collaboration helps us go faster. Together we have enough weight and ambition to get things going. We have signed a Manifesto to speed up the industry’s sustainability policy and organized sessions for growers in which we inspired and informed them, offered our help and asked for their commitment. We also participate in the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI). In 2020, FSI wants 90% of all flowers and plants to come from reliable sources. This means they have a certificate from the FSI basket of standards (GAP or equal, supplemented for producers from high-risk countries in Africa and Latin America with a social compliance certificate).

Sometimes plans do not actualize so it falls on ethical entrepreneurs to be transparent about this. Sometimes you cannot get things done on your own so you need to ask for help: from customers, suppliers, government agencies or NGO’s focussed on environmental or labour issues . We consider them partners, not enemies. They keep us on our toes. Sometimes we use their knowledge, sometimes they use ours. But in the end, we have the same objectives.”

A normal planning cycle.

“We did what any decent company does during a planning cycle: define the goals of all sustainability themes (for 2020), define plans and monitor our achievements. On the basis of our beliefs, we try to stimulate our customers to act sustainably and many of our customers stimulate us, as well. We have the privilege of supplying major European retailers such as IKEA, KingFisher and Aldi, who want to be frontrunners in sustainability. This is incredibly cool because we combine our push with their pull.”


Green Parc Energy, sustainability in practice

A very practical example of Royal Lemkes’ sustainability policy is apparent in Green Parc Energy. The roof of the Bleiswijk Royal Lemkes building is full of solar panels, generating electricity. The energy that is not used is stored in a huge battery next to the building. Employees can buy this electricity thus lowering their personal carbon footprint. To date, almost 50 of the 180 employees have signed up for this initiative.


FrieslandCampina, one of Holland’s largest dairy producers, has been globalizing its activities over the past few decades. Is this because the Dutch don’t produce enough milk? No, it isn’t. The Dutch dairy industry is an export industry. Then why globalize? FrieslandCampina’s CEO Roelof Joosten tells us why.

 Why is FrieslandCampina globalizing?

“FrieslandCampina produces dairy products from the milk of member-farmers – united in a cooperative – who own the company. Since the Dutch produce more milk than they consume, we are export-dependant. So we seek countries that have higher demand for dairy products than they are able to source locally. These countries are to be found in a vast area between West Africa and South East Asia/China. Why? Because in those countries we can add value to our milk on the basis of consumer needs.”

What do your global activities accomplish?

“First, it is vital to focus on what you’re good at and where you can make a difference in product offerings. So we focus on infant formula, dairy-based beverages and branded cheese. Making a difference with these products, you engage with local consumers. Of course you have to adapt to local markets, but it all starts with the milk chain, the foundation from which you produce better products than your competitors.

Part of our job is convincing local entrepreneurs and local consumers of the power of the Dutch dairy industry. FrieslandCampina and other Dutch dairy producers, in contrast with many of our competitors, own the complete supply chain (from grass to glass) with an excellent and unmatched quality system built and nurtured over many years. It’s because of this heritage that you successfully export across borders. And when you adapt your value proposition to local markets, it helps you become successful.

Innovation is another source of success. You need it for your long-term strategy to stay ahead of the game. By the same token, new technology can be successfully implemented into our Dutch business, as well. Our global presence gives us the scale and leveraging capability to implement new technologies and products. It makes us a global leader in dairy products, willing and able to adapt to new trends.”

What are the challenges of  globalizing?

“Probably the major challenge is deciding what not to do. As I said before, you need to focus on what you’re good at. The major trap is that you start to work on many exciting things which are eventually deemed too complex and, therefore, too expensive and unprofitable.

You also need to have a good rapport with local governments. They need our capabilities and skills to produce milk locally so that their country becomes more self-sufficient after allowing us to export dairy products to their country. There has to be a balance in what we can jointly do .”

What should your global activities achieve?

“The simplest answer is the best: a positive earnings model. Value generation allows for a larger premium payout to our farmers in addition to their earnings for milk. Our cost price is based on the average price of milk in Northwestern Europe. Additionally, it is important to provide our members a profitable long-term future which is essential for the continuity of FrieslandCampina and, hence, the continuity of the farms of our member-farmers. So making money is one thing but we should always do this in harmony with the environment/nature and society. The consumer endorses our way of operation if we pay respect to these three elements in total, that will ensure the continued success of our business”


Mayesh, one of the USA’s leading wholesale distributors of cut flowers, has added a Luxe Blooms showcase for the cream of the ornamental crop.

Signature flowers from Holland help Mayesh to differentiate their brand. Meanwhile, the Luxe Blooms line is a way for Dutch growers to anticipate fulfillment needs and exceed the expectations of Mayesh and their customers.

American high-end florists and event planners talk a lot about Dutch flowers. But they never had a focal point to bring together the absolute best of the ‘Flowers from Holland’. That is, until now. The Luxe Blooms/Flowers from Holland specialty section at the 17 Mayesh locations in the continental US offers luxury blooms that will make every day shine.

Over the years, Patrick Dahlson has developed a soft spot for Dutch flowers. “The Dutch have always produced excellent quality flowers. Lately, there has been more specialization with growers focusing on one crop that they are extremely passionate about. I believe high-end cut flowers are like wine;  there is a market for more beautiful and therefore more expensive flowers.”

The Luxe Blooms display comes alive with flowers that wow. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “Our clients expect us to be ahead of the curve. We bring them flowers of superior quality and the newest varieties to stoke their floral passions. For our discerning clientele the best of the best can be a very important selling point differentiation. It gives us a competitive edge.”

Mayesh uses cross-media marketing. “We plan on creating a link on our website to the sites of the growers we are working with. It’s their personal stories that help make the connections. We’ve also posted pictures on Facebook and Instagram in addition to some videos.”

Henriette Brinkman business developer at Royal FloraHolland stresses the ties that bind. “Mayesh indicated one of the auction-based exporters whom they wanted to involve in this experiment.  The auction facilitated efforts between the growers, Mayesh and the exporter. Giving specific attention to this niche market might also encourage other exporters to broaden their market share in this US market segment.”

Garden Centres

Garden centres sell both software (flowers and plants) and hardware (decorations, furniture, etc.). The green assortment is a constant whereas the hardware assortment changes each season. How do garden centres cope with trends? What role do flowers and plants play? We met Martina Mensing in the historic city of Bad Arolsen in Germany. She is co-owner of nine garden centres in Middle Germany and President of the Association of German Garden Centres.

 You recognize relevant trends by thinking outside the box.

“You should also recognize what’s happening in society; you should travel and visit shops, preferably in other sectors. Clothing stores show you which colours are hot and which are not. Look at them with an open mind and adapt these trends in your stores. Our business is in a small city in the countryside. We adapt to that. People in Bad Arolsen don’t like things just because they do in Tokyo. In our garden centre we seek the perfect mix between trends and price point, with lots of inspiration thrown in because I sell dreams.”

Trends in ornamental products develop slower than trends in hardware.

“Preferences and trends differ by country, especially in decorative and Christmas products. In Italy they build little cribs, in Holland little Christmas houses. The Germans only put up  their Christmas trees  on December 24. People in different countries also have different opinions about colours, shapes, etc. The Germans and the British like a classic tint of red, the Dutch use a different tint. No doubt the Japanese or the Mexicans use other tints. When it comes to garden plants, be aware of location. Plants that survive the Italian or Irish winters will undoubtedly die in our North Hesse climate.

You can add value with flowers and plants, for instance by offering garden plants that are bee- and butterfly-friendly. In creating special ‘bee and butterfly’ tables, we make the client feel better which is good for sales. Certain animals are not sold in our garden centres, because we cannot verify how these animals were raised.

In a garden centre you have to offer mainstream products but you continuously have to renew yourself. That’s what trends bring you. In a garden you can create colours and blooms, a place for working and relaxing, but only if you have patience. But not all consumers are as patient as they used to be. Therefore, people buy plants when they look their best and if they bleed out they buy the next season’s beauties . So you have to have a wide assortment of blooming garden plants and trees in optimum quality at fair prices. Grower concepts can help you adapt to trends, but so many growers develop concepts that it sometimes looks like overkill which is disturbing for the consumer.”

The Verband Deutscher Garten-Center (VDG, Association of German Garden Centres) is aware of trends.

“VDG has a covenant with the German government about bee and butterfly protection. We also advise our members about staff policy. Consumers want to be advised about the merchandise they purchase. That’s where our employees come in. They also have to be familiar with trends. Therefore, VDG has the Gartencenter Akademie where they can follow all kinds of courses to improve their skills.”

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:

Global warming

Although Trumpists will disagree, most people think global warming is a threat to Earth. But even a threat presents opportunities. Matt Strugnell knows how those opportunities could affect sparkling wine.

 Matt is the vineyard manager at Ridgeview Estate Winery in Ditchling in Southern England. Ridgeview was founded in 1995 by Mike and Chris Roberts. Mike’s dream was to change the perception of English wines by producing sparkling wines to rival the best international ones. He fulfilled that dream. Numerous prizes and awards bear witness to that.

Mike passed away in 2014 but Ridgeview is still a family business, led by the next generation.

Matt, who joined Ridgeview in 2002, had a horticultural education but also learned on the job . “I worked in this vineyard for fifteen years so I know every spot of it. The coldest spot and the most infectious one. But also the best spot in terms of production.

Our vineyard measures 5.5 hectares and there are a number of vintners growing grapes on a long-term contract basis. Although we exchange knowledge, you still have to work with  them extensively .”

“Climate change seems to help us but since our weather is unpredictable, growing grapes here remains difficult. Although this lacks scientific proof, our winters seem to be warmer and wetter. Summers, being a bit warmer, favour growth. The growing season starts a bit earlier which gives the grapes more time to mature and accumulate sugar. Thus, we can harvest earlier with less chance of rotting.

The flip side to this is that Spring frost can ruin your crop overnight and this is increasingly a problem. This year our vines budded two weeks earlier than usual, but in April we experienced some very cold night-time temperatures. We use special candles and electric wires to raise temperatures enough to keep the plants frost-free. All it takes is raising the ambient temperature 1.5°C, but this has to be done in an open field.

Good grapes have an optimal sugar/acidity level. Both are needed for good taste, but too much sugar means the wine will contain too much alcohol. Getting enough sugar in the grapes used to be a struggle, but nowadays we focus on getting the right mix of sugar and acidity.”

“Likely climate change is helping us, but so are our skills and experience. Even when it would rain for a long time in the summer, we would get a good crop.

Attention is the key to successful growing. Of course you need theoretical knowledge, but you develop your intuition through experience. Sometimes you act on a hunch, that only later you can support with fact. Last weekend the weather was damp and warm. The first thing I did Monday morning was walk around the vineyard visiting probable weak spots.

The strength of the Ridgeview team is in its openness. All 25 employees are informed on a regular basis about the well-being of the company. People from all parts of the company meet at work or lunch. Everyone knows that it takes grapes to make wine. But it also takes winemakers, people to put the label on the bottle and someone to send the bill to the customer after delivery. It’s all about teamwork.”

The shifting epicenter

The West isn’t the center of the universe anymore. The demographic and economic epicenter has moved from Europe and the USA to Asia, Africa and Latin America. China offers many opportunities. And growing prosperity will bring changes in horticulture.

 Martin Olde Monnikhof and Nynke Runia (Dutch agricultural counsellors based in in Beijing) reflect on China’s growing role on the world stage. “Their main ambition is to further develop their country, not overtake US dominance. But for historic, demographic and economic reasons they wish to be taken seriously at  an international level, including  competitiveness in agriculture and horticulture.

China’s major challenge is sustainable prosperity. This is what the population asks of the government. So there’s lots of attention on alternative energy sources and clean water.

Doing business is different in China. You need a reliable local partner. If he is not okay, the project will fail. You also need good market and transport strategies. Then there’s the government and the Party, who are omnipresent in China. There is a Party secretary in any company of some substance. The government is responsible for market access. Good contacts with national, local and provincial authorities are of great importance. If the government is on your side it can be of great benefit; if not, you have a problem.

Chinese culture differs from any other culture. There’s the language barrier and there are different ways of negotiating. Chinese are less transparent, tending to negotiate till the moment you deliver the product. Therefore, it takes time to do business. But when you are in business, the possibilities are  endless. China needs to think big and do so in the floral business, too.

Yes, we do see market potential. Of course China will develop its own production areas (in which foreign growers may play a role). In niche markets, foreign flowers and plants have their place . A new middle class is developing, people with money to buy flowers regularly. Although their opinions on flowers and plants may differ from ours, they sure do love them.”

AIPH Secretary General Tim Briercliffe sees two long-term global developments. “In developing countries a new middle class arises, people with money to buy flowers. Cultural influences will eventually decide if they make this purchase. In our International Vision Program we analyse this development. We think you can create new markets on the basis of these developments, for instance in China or India. People gaining prosperity tend to adapt to a more Western lifestyle. A vital domestic flower market in India by 2030? Who knows. We do know that everyone loves flowers, but not everyone will buy them for domestic use.

Another development is urban greening. Cities tend to green up their areas, while developing countries do so to an even greater extent than in western countries.

All this brings new opportunities for the industry. But the prospects are eastward-bound. Our September Annual Congress in Taipei is no coincidence. AIPH increasingly attracts more Asian growers. We are present there in conferences and exhibitions. Western markets tend to stabilize, Asian markets tend to grow. Asian production will grow, too, but there will be niche markets bringing new opportunities for traditional European, African and Latin American production  but also   innovation and exports of knowledge and skills.”