Last week I had the privilege of speaking to standing room only crowd of my floral industry colleagues at the International Floriculture Expo to give my part of the “State of the Industry” program. My part of the presentation was to represent the state of the domestic cut flower industry, recognizing that approximately 80% of the flowers sold in the United States are imports. With California representing almost 80% of what remains in U.S. flower farming, the position and perspective of the Commission’s role on behalf of the state’s flower farmers does provide for a good overview.
With only an hour for two presentations and some Q&A, my part needed to remain approximately 15 minutes. With so much happening and changing in the U.S. floral industry, 15 minutes is certainly not enough time, but I focused my remarks on three specific points.
Point #1: The State of California
It was important to give some perspective on where California currently stands, relative to the size of the industry. We do represent over 225, with a farmgate value of $278m and employ approximately 15,000 people directly. However it’s this slide that shows the disparity of the market between imports and U.S. Grown flowers that gets people talking:
Point #2: What Do Consumers Want?
The CCFC and the Buy California Marketing Agreement (BCMA) have both recently invested in consumer research that provides some very supportive data regarding consumers affinity and desire for products grown in the United States over those grown and then imported from other countries. According to the most recent nationwide study, 75% of consumers prefer to products grown in the United States.
I also highlighted what the Commission found in it’s recent nationwide omnibus survey, which found that 74% of consumers have no idea where their flowers come from, yet 58% of them would prefer California Grown Flowers if given a choice. Simply put, the consumers we survey aren’t getting what they’d prefer to have when it comes to the flowers they are purchasing.
Point #3: The Opportunities Ahead
My last point of my presentation was simply to point out the obvious, which was to say that marketing U.S. flowers as “American Grown” or “U.S. Grown” is the opportunity ahead. I explained that the current strategy by the CCFC is for our farms to simply be and sell who they are, “America’s flower farmers.” I shared that domestic cut flower farmers are not challenged competitively on quality, variety and freshness. Rather, it’s the anonymity of where the flowers are grown that is the domestic flower farmers greatest threat. The job ahead is to educate consumers that not all flowers are grown in the United States and explain why, like food, origin matters too.
I ended my presentation with an invitation to come back to California.
The invitation was meant to be taken both literally and figuratively, as I am always looking for an excuse to take my old pickup through the flower fields of California. Here was my last slide: