Although summer and fall were good in terms of sales and they will end the year on a positive note, COVID-19 left an emotional scar at Maria Flowers, a company that supplies mainly roses from Ecuador to supermarkets in the US. In early August, they lost one beloved member of their team, Omar Neira, to the virus. "It was a terrible experience for everyone in Maria Flowers and we are still very sad for his departure," says Felipe Villamizar, the company's CEO, when looking back at the year. Fortunately, business is still doing well, they are already planning for Valentine's Day 2021 and have high hopes for 2021.
Felipe Villamizar of Maria Flowers at PMA Fresh Summit 2019. He sources mainly roses, from different farms in Ecuador and Colombia. About 70 percent of their assortment is from Ecuador, Colombia accounts for 30 percent.
When looking back at the year, Villamizar describes it as a rollercoaster. "Sales started great for Valentine’s Day with record sales, then in March, when the pandemic hit the USA, the sales took a big hit and we were about 35% down in sales without really knowing where we were heading." Fortunately, things got better. "Mother’s Day was still low in volume but it was a turning point because I think it gave a clear indication that the US consumer was willing to purchase flowers to decorate their homes during this pandemic. Summer and fall were good with sales above last year's levels."
This rollercoaster ride wasn't without any challenges. "We had to deal with a lot of operational challenges and fortunately we managed to do it. The major challenge, however, was definitely dealing with the passing of one of our beloved team members."
Taking care of the environment
Even though Maria Flowers was dealing with many different challenges, they decided to continue to support the Ecuadorian environmental organization called EcoMinga, which protects primary forests. "We thought that it was especially important to support them this year because the economic problems that the pandemic brought, creates even more pressure on the environmental reserves. Because of this support, during 2020 we were honored with the naming of a new species of Salamander that was discovered in the reserve (Oedipina villamizariorum sp. n.)."
Bright colors are in - more yellow and orange
When looking at the trends, Villamizar notices a shift from pastel colors to bright colors. "Bright colors are in and pastel colors are out." And he sees farms adjusting to this development. "To adjust, farms are changing their color compositions with a special focus on increasing yellow and orange tones."
Addition of roses to the GSP program
President Trump has added roses to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) effective November 1st, 2020. Villamizar says this was great news. "Rose growers around the world are happy that such an important crop was added to the GSP program, especially considering that all the rest of the flowers were already included in the program."
Expectations for 2021
Expectations for 2021 are high. "We feel that more consumers have experienced the joy of having more fresh flowers in their homes during 2020 and we think that during 2021 they will continue to do it."