United Selections and Könst Alstroemeria are collaborating for a bit over a year now and are very pleased so far. But what do roses and alstroemerias and zantedeschias have in common, you may think? In this article, Paco van der Louw of Könst Alstroemeria and Edwin Kirwa of United Selections explain why they entered into this strategic collaboration, how they remain independent and why it has proven fruitful.
The Könst Alstroemeria and United Selections teams at their shared booth at the IFTF in Vijfhuizen, the Netherlands, earlier this month.
Expanding markets and staying independent
United Selections and Könst Alstroemeria are both medium size family-owned companies. The top management of both companies have known each other for some years, and after many talks, they noticed that they could help each other to expand their markets. "United Selections is Kenyan based and therefore has a large network in Kenya whereas Könst is well established in Latin America. Könst wants to grow in Kenya and United Selections in Latin America, so why not help each other?"
In September 2021, they decided to start a strategic collaboration where both companies cooperate on production and breeding activities and share a booth at different fairs. At the IFTEX in Kenya earlier this year, for example, they had a shared booth, as well as at the Expo Flor Ecuador in October and the IFTF earlier this month. However, they stay independent with their own sales and commercial activities.
United Selections in Colombia
United Selections assortment is gaining a lot of traction in Latin America. However, keeping up with the demand for budwood has been a constant challenge. "Budwood from our mini-showrooms in Innovacion and Denmar was not enough, but Könst giving us a space to produce more budwood for United Selections in Colombia has enabled us to meet the increasing demand," says Kirwa, who sees the demand increasing since the pandemic.
Bart Tesselaar, together with the United Selections team planting alstroemeria plants for the first time at United Selections in Nakuru, Kenya.
Könst in Kenya
Kenya, the home base of United Selections, is an expanding market for Könst and they are therefore happy that they can now supply growers from the United Selections location, where they also have their showcase. "We used to ship our plants directly from the Netherlands to our Kenyan growers, where they needed to harden before they could plant. Now, we ship them to the United Selections facility first, where they keep them for a few weeks to harden. Here, we can monitor the quality of the plants as long as possible, in turn delivering a better quality product to the grower", van der Louw says.
Besides meeting the demand and delivering a better quality product, the collaboration brings more advantages, Kirwa and van der Louw explain. "As our products are so different, so we are no direct competitors, but we can actively help each other find new clients and meet our different companies' commercial objectives. In Kenya, for example, we see increasingly more rose growers adding new crops like alstroemerias. And as we both have experience and a passion for plants, we can help each other in informing or giving advice in the cultivation of the Roses of United Selections or Alstroemeria of Könst."
Also, the partnership enables growers to see the roses of United Selections and the Könst Alstroemerias at more locations. During the IFTF week, earlier this month, for example, United Selections Roses were on display at the Könst facility in the Netherlands. And in January, during the annual Open House event of United Selections, also alstroemerias will be showcased.
The outlook of the alstroemeria plants today at United Selections in Nakuru, Kenya.
With change comes new opportunities but also challenges. "For us, the main challenge was to get to know each other's crops, so they mainly were on the technical side. Fortunately, we both have great teams, and they both invested quite some time in educating each other about the crops. And are continuedly monitoring, to ensure the best quality."
Future of growth
When looking ahead, Kirwa and van der Louw are certain about growth. "We are now able to supply our growers and potential new growers with our products, and because of the energy crisis in Europe, we expect more demand for flowers grown in Africa and Latin America. In turn, higher demand for our products", they say. In terms of Alstroemerias, van der Louw sees increasingly more rose growers adding this crop to their assortment. "Due to the partnership, United Selections can help us with finding new growers and connect us with them." When looking at the roses, Kirwa sees an increase in demand for spray roses, and as their assortment is increasing, they expect to grow further as well.
Expanding markets together
Together, they are also looking at new markets to expand in, like Asia. "We aim to grow in Asia and sell more together because together we are stronger," says van der Louw. Also, in Europe, they see opportunities to expand, but then for their pot plant lines. "We are known for our cut flowers, but we also have pot plants, and we have high hopes for these lines in the European market."