Captivate Cooks With Culinary Offerings

Originally printed in the July 2018 issue of Produce Business.

Including fresh-cut herbs in flower bouquets remains a trend among floral enthusiasts. Sprigs of rosemary, sage, mint, dill or parsley are favorites to use when enhancing store-bought flowers. The freshness factor is amplified, and consumers enjoy adding their own DIY touch. Beyond the interests of DIYers, savvy floral departments will want to consider merchandising for snackers – yes, humans wanting a taste of the garden from their own kitchen counter.

Food gardening has been trending the past few years, and social media posts and photos seen on Pinterest help fuel its popularity. But for many, outdoor gardening is not possible. Rocket Farms of Half Moon Bay, CA, is in its second year of offering potted cherry tomato plants. Promoted for snacking, the cherry tomatoes are grown in California from seed exclusive to Rocket Farms in the United States.

Jason Kamimoto, vice president of marketing, says plants arrive in stores in five-and-a-half-inch pots with about 30 to 50 fruit at varying stages of color. During a plant’s life the yield is about 150 tomatoes. “This plant is positioned as a counter top snack where consumers can grab a quick snack, enjoy picking their own snack and benefit from eating a living snack,” explains Kamimoto.

Feedback from retailers indicate the cherry tomato plants ship well, are lasting in the stores with no issues and are interesting to consumers. Rocket Farms is socially active and diligently monitors social media feedback. “Consumers think the potted tomato plants are cool and that they’re different since they sit on the kitchen counter as snack providers,” says Kamimoto. He adds consumers consistently comment on the great taste as well.

The cherry tomatoes are part of the living food category grown by Rocket Farms, which is especially known for potted orchids, blooming and foliage plants and home décor plants. “The living food category is an interesting opportunity for us and has involved extensive trialing,” explains Kamimoto. The tomatoes are the second phase of the living food category — following the success of the living culinary herb program. He notes trialing continues, and soon the company will reveal additional products.

Tis The Season

Profit-minded floral retailers looking ahead to December are checking their lists for holiday items that still might need to be ordered. Last year’s big question about Christmas tree availability is not a concern this year, according to Tim O’Connor, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association in Littleton, CO. “There will be real Christmas trees for everyone who wants one in 2018. Although the supply of real Christmas trees this year is a little tight, no one needs to worry about going away empty-handed. Concerns about the availability of trees last year were unwarranted, and concerns this year are unnecessary.” He adds, “The best way to ensure a healthy real Christmas tree supply is to support tree farmers every year.” This information can be used when promoting real Christmas trees on store websites.

With the tariff banter happening between the United States and China, it’s natural for retailers to be extra diligent about placing orders early to secure Christmas and December holiday products. Made In The USA is a merchandising theme that can happen starting from the ground up. Ray Fiveash, president of CINCO Plastics in Houston, says the 29-year-old company is in full production mode. “We’re on schedule with our Christmas tree stands,” says Fiveash, whose company did not suffer from loss during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

“The freeways were flooded, so we were shut down for a while but escaped any real issues.” Fiveash assures inventory is available for the company’s sought-after injection-molded plastic stands that have been mentioned in an ABC News Made In America segment.

Floral And Produce – Visually Connected

They say we eat with our eyes first. Produce merchandisers focus on this science and often create displays that cause mouths to water. In Floral, the visual connection between the displayed products and the shopper is nearly immediate. Sure, fragrance and colors play their parts – but often it’s signage that brings reluctant customers closer.

Is your store using clever and informative signs to remind customers to buy flowers for themselves and as gifts? Support your floral teams with their merchandising efforts all through the year. Merchandising in Floral is just as important as in Produce. Enhancing the in-store shopping experience will continue to be a must for retailers competing with online sales of flowers and plants.

E. Shaunn Alderman, Associate Publisher, FLORAL BUSINESS