This year the California Cut Flower Commission will celebrate 25 years of advocacy and promotion on behalf of California’s flower farmers. At the time the commission was established in 1990, George H.W. Bush was president, Operation Desert Shield was under way, “Law & Order” premiered on NBC, Walmart opened its first store in California and domestic flowers still represented the majority of flowers sold in the United States. Since then, innovation, consumer demand and federal trade policy have all significantly affected the United States floral industry. Mass-market floral departments and Internet retailers have almost doubled the wholesale value of flowers sold in the United States to roughly $1.4 billion in 2013. And imported flowers now represent approximately 80 percent of flowers sold in the United States.
So what will the next 25 years bring?
In September, the CCFC’s Board of Commissioners met in Santa Barbara to develop a strategic plan that accounts for the innovations, consumer trends and policies currently shaping our ever-changing marketplace. A primary driver of the day’s discussion and decision-making focused on consumers’ increasing care and concern about where and how things are made and grown.
CCFC’s consumer research and future planning appears to be aligned with others. With market leaders like Walmart launching a $250 billion effort to “on-shore” more of the products it supplies and Whole Foods Markets promoting a commitment to sustainable farming, domestic flower farmers are ideally positioned to meet new industry initiatives.
Innovations in communication continue to influence market and corporate behavior. The website for 1-800-Flowers wasn’t registered until 1995, but it ultimately led to an online presence that a toll-free number alone could not have realized. Today, 1-800-Flowers has almost one million fans on Facebook and 38,000 followers on Twitter.
This level of consumer care, concern and public engagement is going to require that the next 25 years of the floral industry be different than the past. Consumers will increasingly call on companies to be more transparent, environmentally conscious and committed to the economic success of our local communities.
The commission’s strategic plan includes a commitment of resources to help address consumer and corporate concerns. This summer the commission launched an online sustainability workbook for farms, with plans to finalize a complete domestic-based sustainability certification program in 2015.
Plans also include support for the Certified American Grown program. Launched in July by a nationwide coalition of flower farmers, Certified American Grown connects retailers with local flower farmers and communicates a guarantee that the flowers consumers purchase are grown here in the United States.
While consumers in 1990 could not have imagined having their own Facebook page, they probably also could not have envisioned that 98 percent of roses sold in the United States would end up being imported by 2014. We know that these social media-focused consumers have expectations that will ultimately determine what they spend their money on and with whom. In 2015, the commission will be focused on working collaboratively with retailers, wholesalers and consumers who want to celebrate the next 25 years of domestic flower farming.