You wouldn’t expect a leading European producer of perennials, grasses, annuals and young plants to be located in Poland. Yet Vitroflora ‘grew up’ in Poland, although CEO Tomasz Michalik considers his company to be European. “Poland is a good market for our products, but only a third of our perennial turnover is Polish, another third is German and the rest is elsewhere in Europe.”
Michalik tells the story of growing over the past forty years by focusing on quality.
“Under communist rule, the main difference between Poland and other communist countries was that agricultural companies could be privately owned. So the Pawlak family founded Vitroflora as a private business. By the early eighties we had started in vitro production of young plants in the lab. Nowadays, 60 to 70% of our perennial production comes from the lab, which is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. Still, we distinguish ourselves from competitors by producing young material ourselves for both domestic and export markets. Next to Poland, the Baltic states and other parts of Eastern Europe are important markets.
“It took Vitroflora time and energy to reach its current position. We were new on the European market and Poland isn’t exactly known as a horticultural country. But we always focused on preserving fixed standards, on good, reliable quality and on excellent service for our clients. We never competed over price. We deliver a good, solid product, we innovate but our transport costs are relatively high. So we charge fair prices for our products. Perhaps in some parts of the country Polish wages are lower than Western European wages, but we need skilled people who deserve a fair salary. So in that perspective there is no local advantage.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to be far from the center of the horticulture trade. In the past Dutch colleagues would benefit from their location with their innovations. But since Vitroflora has had solid growth, other companies are more willing to work with us.
“Our goal is to be the European leader in each of our product categories, especially perennials and annuals for local and East European clients. Our focus will be on innovations with mid-size plants. It is not our aim to become a mass producer. We will focus on the high-end market by expanding our in vitro production.”
Author: Piet Kralt