This month we focus on the 2020 Stars for Europe Campaign.
www.Planteria.eu is delighted to publish this exclusive interview with Dr. Susanne Lux, campaign coordinator of Stars for Europe, on behalf of its member breeders: Dümmen Orange, Selecta One, Beekenkamp and Syngenta Flowers, supported by MNP Flowers.
'Your 'Stars for Europe' campaign celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year. What significant changes have there been during this period in terms of how Poinsettias are bred, grown and supplied across Europe and beyond?'
'Breeders and growers across Europe have led a wide range of exciting advances in the supply chain. Many different new forms and varieties have been cultivated, poinsettia durability and shelf-life has improved as well as the size of cyathias (the poinsettia’s real “flower” at its centre). At the same time the need for plant growth regulators has reduced which in turn makes varieties more environmentally friendly for growers to produce.
'Working practices have advanced too, for instance, Fairtrade has been implemented for several of our member breeders which improves the conditions for workers at farms in countries where cuttings are produced.'
'While this was all going on behind the scenes, the needs and wishes of consumers have changed a lot in the last 20 years as well. Thus, breeders have been constantly searching for special varieties with exciting new colours, shapes or outstanding characteristics. They are now telling “stories” with their products and marketing, modernising the plant to attract new buyers and encouraging them to enter shops... even if they still end up opting for the classic red poinsettia in the end!'
'It is safe to say that the ramifications of Covid-19 will enhance the potential for even higher levels of Poinsettia sales this coming Christmas. How critical is this sales period to yourselves and the floriculture sector?'
'This is an important season for all parts of the chain - the retailer, the grower and the breeder – because poinsettia sales close the year and have an influence on the final financial results. After Covid-19, the expectation among some is that people will be willing to spend more on making their homes nice, and the poinsettia is a key ingredient for this at Christmas.'
'The poinsettia is one of the main products of the assortment of our member breeders so it’s an important sales period generally, but it’s also a meaningful time for the whole sector because it’s an opportunity to get people into the shops and buying plants at wintertime – while strengthening the key message that poinsettias are a symbol of Christmas.'
How have you as breeders and growers prepared for this potential increase as consumers seek to make their winter home 'A Poinsettia Home'?
'Our member breeders put various steps in place to pave the way for a smooth and successful poinsettia season for their customers, Europe’s growers. For example, some prepared with larger availability which meant they could say yes to last minute orders more easily – noticing an increase in demand during early summer, just before poinsettias needed to be planted.'
'They also took care of all relevant logistics so that their customers could receive young plants in time along with top level service and quality – enabling producers to grow the perfect end product for consumers. Plus, they continue this support through sales and marketing to help boost sales, notably of course, via the Stars for Europe campaign.'
How is the 'aftercare' aspect of Poinsettias being addressed via your campaign? Do garden centres in general have the time and expertise to advise consumers on this subject?
We support garden centres as well as retail gardeners and florists because we believe these specialist retailers are a critical component to the sector since they have the unique capacity to offer enhanced care advice to staff and customers. They also have more facility to offer a wider range of special varieties – for example new shapes and colours – thanks to more flexible buying structures'
'When trade personnel learn the best methods for looking after plants in-transit and in-store, such as knowing to keep them away from the draughty front door of the shop and telling customers to wrap them up for the journey home, this ensures that the end-product is of the highest quality and is long-lasting after it reaches the customer’s home.
'For this reason, we support the green industry through a variety of measures including free posters and POS materials, care icons, educational videos, press releases and content on our trade website, www.sfe-web.com. We’re thrilled to announce the campaign has just received EU funding for another three years, so this offering for the green trade is set to grow much bigger.'
Poinsettias are available in many colours beyond the 'traditional red'. Are any new colours being trialled in the breeding process to extend this number for the future?
'Yes, there are exciting developments in the pipeline for the future, from all of our member breeders. Whilst they already offer a wide range of different styles, they are always looking for the next new thing including modern colours - reacting to the demand for special and unique varieties. Watch this space, you’re sure to be surprised!'
For how long has International Poinsettia Day been established and does this drive last minute sales beyond their existing level?
Poinsettia Day was established as far back as 1852, as it marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett who was the first American ambassador to Mexico. Poinsett came across the plant during his time in Mexico and he liked it so much he took it back to the USA where he sent it to new audiences all over the country.'
'He died on 12th December 1851, and in his honour, the US Congress introduced Poinsettia Day on that date. Today, the Stars for Europe campaign uses it as a hook in our marketing and social media communications which helps to drive sales not just on the day itself but throughout the season, as it provides an interesting topic to kindle conversation with the media and end consumers.'
Houseplants were enjoying a huge resurgence, even before the lockdown. Will your 2020 campaign seek to enhance Poinsettias as a trendsetting plant?
Absolutely, for years we have developed strategies on this topic and we plan to continue further. Annual photography is the linchpin of our consumer messaging and our latest 2020 imagery features indoor scenes to suit all the latest trends, including poinsettias paired with popular green houseplants such as Monstera and Pilea.'
'Our partner agencies hone in on this further by targeting and collaborating with green influencers who are leading plant trends on Instagram and elsewhere. Other examples include a partnership with a garden centre where a bespoke “at home indoor jungle" scene was created in-store, using poinsettias in this trending setting at the place of purchase so that customers could visualise the plant in their homes.'
Finally, looking into 2021 and the 'new normal', can horticulture and floriculture increase well-being and create a greener home environment?
'Whilst green plants are ever-popular on Instagram, sales of flowering indoor plants have still seen a steady decline over recent years, but – with help from our campaigning - the poinsettia has managed to buck that trend. We think the new ‘stay at home’ lifestyle will lead to more interest in flowers, as well as plants.'
'Our future campaigns will champion these messages further, placing the poinsettia at the forefront of modern plant trends that aim to connect us with nature and lift our spirits. Plus, unlike a lot of other plants, the poinsettia is often grown local to the area it’s sold because it’s not suitable for transport over long distances.'
'This strengthens that green message and meets consumers’ increasing desire for knowing the origin of products in their home. In addition, poinsettias are versatile and perfect for DIY projects or crafts such as flower arranging, which ties in with the ethos for creating a calming sanctuary at home. Having poinsettias in your space can help you feel closer to nature and improve your surroundings – fully fitting the popular hashtag #plantsmakepeoplehappy.'