Vase life expansion is something the floral industry is continuously looking for. Throughout the chain, benefits are high and it may even boost the market for cut flowers. A recent study conducted reveals that if the vase life of a flower is 50 percent longer, the consumer would not only be willing to pay 20 percent more, they even said they would buy more." This study was held among Swedish consumers by OptiFreeze, together with Novus, after inventing a patented technology that can expand the vase life of roses by, on average, 50%. "It depends per variety, for some, we even seen the vase life being tripled," says Ulf Hagman, CEO at OptiFreeze. Currently, they have one machine running at Swedish wholesaler De Tulp, another is on the way for Swedish wholesaler APH and they are looking forward to finally install them at interested parties in other countries, as Covid-19 delayed this opportunity.
How does it work
The patented technology and machine that OptiFreeze invented for the shelf life extension of roses is called OptiBoost. The machine is installed at the unpacking stage where dry flowers from Kenya arrive to Europe, where they are being cut again and put on water. With a vacuum technology, we replace parts of the air in the leaves with a special nutrition solution, explains Hagman. “We impregnate the leaves and they therefore stay much longer on the vase. Also, we saw that the roses drink a lot more. They drink almost twice as much as the ones not treated.
Below is a time lapse video in which 2 bunches of 10 stems of the red variety Freedom has been put in a vase. One bunch is treated with OptiBoost and the other one not. For 15 days, a picture has been made of the bunch. The control vase, without treatment, started to fall down at 5 days and on the 7th day, almost all flower heads were down. The flowers treated vase, in contrast were still alive at day 15.
Paying per stem
Instead of buying the entire machine, unpackers can also choose for a contract to pay or treatment for a minimum amount of stems. “Then, the price depends on the size of the flower, in other words, how much treatment needs to put into the flower. Depending on the size of the flower – the smaller the cheaper – the price ranges between 2 to 10 cents per stem, including everything like machine, nutrition and the royalty for using it.”
How is the interest in the chain?
According to Hagman, the interest for the product is high, among many links in the chain. “First of all, our company is a public company consisting of 6,000 stakeholders who, of course, have faith in the product. Then, we have Syngenta as our long term partner who is supporting us since the very start and we received many positive reactions from retailers and unpackers in Europe and we have already evaluation chain agreements with several in Sweden as well as in the UK.
What about the end consumer? Will there be a market for roses with a longer shelf life? Are they willing to spend more and if a product has a longer shelf life, will they buy less as a result? Also in this final link of the chain, interest seems to be high, Hagman explains. Together with Novus, OptiFreeze conducted a research among Swedish consumers and found out that the respondents were willing to pay 20% more for flowers with a 50% longer vase life. On top of that 60% of them said they would buy more.
But how to show the end consumer that the OptiBoost treated roses has a longer vase life? "We created and are marketing the brand OptiBoost. We are putting a seal on the plastic sleeve of the treated roses and we are also working on material with extra information of the consumers."
In the near future, OptiFreeze's aim is to spread their wings internationally. “Due to the pandemic and the travel restrictions, it has not been possible to travel as much as desired, so we decided to start within Sweden. We have already one machine running here and the next one will be installed the end of this year or the beginning of next year. In 2021, we hope to install our first machine at M&M Flowers in the UK and we are looking forward to cooperate with retailers and consumers. Especially for Valentine’s Day this technique is very valuable as consumers usually have to pay very high prices for a product that is often lacking quality as a result of too long storage."
Besides roses, OptiFreeze is busy in extend shelf life of all kind of fresh produce. Besides roses, they are looking for solutions more cut flowers, vegetables and fruit, but also cuttings. In this latter segment, they are cooperating with Syngenta. With them, they work more in cuttings projects. These projects has been delayed a bit due to the pandemic. "We have machine installed in Kenya, but the problem is that we are not able to travel and support them as desired. Therefore, we installed a machine in De Lier, which is closer by, so that we can do some more trials and evaluations."