Dianthus Week panel discusses opportunities

US: How to improve the image of the carnation?

The carnation is not anymore the red, white or pink old fashioned, grandma or funeral flower that is brittle and cheap. Over the years, extensive breeding has created a versatile long lasting flower in numerous shapes and colors. But how to improve the image of the carnation among the US consumer? This was one of the main topics discussed by the Dianthus Week panel yesterday. In a virtual setting, six panelist - consisting of retailers, a florist shop, wholesaler, floral designer and a grower - give their opinion from their perspective. In short, communication, cooperation and partnership seem to be key.    

The panelists: Clockwise: Debora Steier (Vice President Floral, Albertsons Companies), Erin Esensee (Business Unit Director, H E B BLOOMS), Becky Roberts (Floral Director PMA (Moderator), Andrés Toro (Dianthus Grower, Colibri Farms), Sarah Campbell, (Intrigue Design), David Dahlson (Director of R & D Mayesh Wholesale Florist, WF&FSA), and Deborah Zoellick (Sourcing Manager Wallmart)

Colombia is the main producer of carnation
The dianthus has a special meaning in Colombia. 55 year ago, they grew the first species there and over the years, the number of varieties, colors and shapes increased. Colombia is now one of world's largest producers of dianthus and the dianthus species represent 15% of the flower exports in the country. To introduce 5 to 10 varieties per year, a breeder produces around 60,000 dianthus seeds per year, and it takes about 6 years till a variety is ready to be put on the market. Last week, it was Dianthus Week in Colombia where nine breeders opened the doors of their trial locations to show what's in their current assortment, what will be introduced soon and what is still being trialed. Yesterday, March 9, a panel discussed the opportunities for the carnation to improve the image of the carnation in the US in a 2-hour session.

Improving the image of the carnation
By organizing the Dianthus week, the industry is eager to improve the image of the carnation. The goal is to change the image from an old fashioned, grandma or funeral flower that is brittle, cheap, does not open and does not have enough varieties into a flower that is characterized by words like long-lasting, bright colors, lovely novelties, diversity, bountiful, royal and great value. 

Opportunities carnation in the mass market 
In the mass market, value is important and the long vase life will therefore be a good selling point. On top of that, the wide range of colors and unique colors that the carnation assortment has to offer will catch the eye of the consumer. 

Opportunities for carnations in the wedding and event business
The versatility of this product brings a lot of opportunities for the event and wedding industry. "The visual aspect is very important in the event industry and they therefore need to see the color options", says event and wedding florist Sarah Campbell of Intrigue Design. "In the Event world, we do not look for scent not long vase life, however, the fact that it stays well out of water is a good selling point." According to Campbell, large scale installations are hot nowadays. Despite the COVID-19 situation made the weddings smaller, it resulted in people putting more money intro flowers. "We do a lot of installations and carnations will be a great fit." 

Show them, tell the story and educate them!
However, how to bring this knowledge to the consumer or event world? It is all about showing the product and telling them the story. The retailers agree that the long vase life is a great selling point. However, it needs to be communicated on the shop floor. On top of that, David Dahlson adds that it is important to educate the consumer to show them how the opening of the flower and how the product can be used. Also in the event world, promotion, communication and education is key. Florists and designers need to get more familiar with the product, the enormous possibilities. It can be a very luxurious product that is not that costly, as long as they know how to use and combine it, David Dahlson of Mayes explains. During the panel he showed a bouquet of David Austin roses combined with carnations, which had a luxurious feel. 

What about sustainability? 
Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important topic as the new consumers are more aware of it. Also there, it is important to tell the story of the Colombian growers, but also show them if the sleeves are recyclable or even biodegradable and tell them what to do with it. When looking at the carnation combined with sustainability, the future looks bright. In a couple of years, more and more flowers will be shipped by sea, to reduce the carbon footprint. Then, then long vase life is key and the carnation has it, Dahlson says.  

Selling by variety name?
One of the questions asked by moderator Becky Roberts of PMA was if selling by variety name would be something to explore. For the designers and florists, variety name are very important. They want to know the name because then they learn about the characteristics of this variety and can order it again. Also if they see another florist working with it, they want the specific names. 

For the mass market, variety names aren't commonly use, but might be an opportunity as not too many names will be used. The idea was raised to make two or three variety names very popular by campaigns on social media, for example. It then needs to be part of a bigger story, they agreed. In order to increase the sales of the carnation, and flower in general, a unified message is essential. 

The mass market and wholesalers are eager to be more involved in the selection process. They are all looking for unique varieties and are therefore curious to find out what is being trialed. "Breeders and growers need to know what we want." And many even want to be there before the growers. "Breeders might eliminate colors that we might want. Let us help increase your sales," Deborah Zoellick of Wallmart says. So, the mass market as well as the wholesale industry is eagerly looking for partnerships with breeders and growers so that they can have access to the unique varieties.

Dianthus week 2022
Last week, from March 1-5, Dianthus week was held in Colombia where nine breeders opened their doors. The nine breeders who participated were:

Click here to take a look at Dianthus Week at Selecta Colombia. 

In 2022, the third edition of the Dianthus Week will be organized and it will take place from March 7-11. Till that time, they will continuously update their web page.  

For more information:
Dianthus Week Colombia


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