The Swiss are flower lovers and are always among the highest consumers per capita worldwide. In order to meet their constant appetite, the majority of the flowers are imported. Over the last decade, however, the consumption in terms of volume remained the same while that of CHF (Swiss Franc) decreased considerably. This development comes from the fact that flowers become more and more a product of the masses, boosted by the entry of price aggressive discounters into the market. This is explained by Matthias Haudenschild of agrotropic AG, a Swiss importer of flowers and cut foliage. So, how to stay ahead of this competition?
According to Haudenschild, understanding the needs of the Swiss consumer is essential and their close cooperation with supermarkets, wholesale clients and the subsidiary Blume 3000, a florist chain, enables them to understand these needs. "Swiss consumers value quality and expect a product that is grown sustainably. They are also trend oriented and love novelties", he says.
Rose no. 1
The most popular - volume wise, throughout the seasons, and as a single flower - is still the rose, explains Haudenschild. "Roses are both classy and with the never ending source of new varieties and colors also modern at any time." Seasonally tulips and garden flowers are the runner-up.
Besides knowing the needs of the end consumer, a close relation with the suppliers is as important. Agroptripic specialize in the import of flowers directly from the source. "Since the early days, the company has high standards in terms of ecological and social aspects of the trade. So the special thing about our products is that the buyer always knows the source of the product and can rely on that the related grower grows sustainably and his workers get a fair deal. Moreover, thanks to its subsidiary Tropiflora Sri Lanka (founded in 1981) and involvement in Tropiflora Kenya (founded in 1982), agrotropic has first-hand knowledge of local operations in the supplying countries."
In total, agrotropic maintains relationships with over 50 farms in 12 countries and 90% of the volumes the company trades is from FLO certified farms.
Next to the close and long term oriented partnerships between growers and buyers, agrotropic is putting more effort in adding value. "Firstly, we add value by selecting growers that emphasize quality which we verify by vase life testing, quality intake checks and cold chain monitoring. Secondly, our creativity team creates bespoke assortments by market and trend research, new product sampling and market trialing in our own florist chain blume 3000. On top of that, by vertical integration. We are growing our own products in two farms in Kenya (Tropiflora, Utee) and one in Sri Lanka (Tropiflora). Finally, we develop and monitor our grower portfolio, emphasizing on ecological and social sustainability."
Agroponic was founded in 1976 and has since played a pioneering role in a variety of areas. For example, in 1994 agrotropic was the first company in Switzerland to offer flowers in water, while in 2001 it launched Max-Havelaar roses together with leading Swiss supermarkets.
The whole agrotropic and blume 3000 team consisting of more than 65 people moved in to a brand-new Minergy flower factory last year and in the future, they are eager to make the factory CO2 neutral. "Currently, in 9 months of the year, the warm water and central heating runs by waste heat from our cold stores. Only in the winter time we require some heat injection from the wood-chip heat plant nearby, which is fueled by renewable Swiss pine. Our 5 year plan is to outfit our shed roof with solar cells which will produce the electricity needed for our cold stores. This step will render our whole factory CO2 neutral."