The Flower Fields Alliance Splits

January 21, 2005 - 13:41

While The Flower Fields continues as an association of companies working together to meet the needs of its customers, due to marketing and organizational changes, Fischer USA and Goldsmith Seeds will no longer be formal members of The Flower Fields Alliance nor offer products under The Flower Fields brand effective with the new fiscal year, April 1, 2005.

“We have responded to changes in market demands by reducing emphasis on retail brand development and shifting our focus to our business-to-business efforts to create solutions that use the products and resources of the companies in a greater variety of ways,” said Tom Doak of Yoder Brothers who serves as chair of The Flower Fields Alliance. “All four companies are committed to continuing our primary efforts to develop and bring to market new and improved varieties.”

“Fischer will be focusing on the products coming from the combined breeding programs of Fischer and vegetative products from Goldsmith Seeds, marketed under the Goldfisch label which is a grower program and not a retail brand,” said Gary Falkenstein, co-president, Fischer USA.
“I think as companies we will still be able to maintain relationships and work toward how we can improve the industry as a whole,” continued Falkenstein. “Fischer has been more or less kind of an associate member with the group this last year because with all we did take on we really felt we had to concentrate a lot more on aspects of our business and support directly to the grower and the broker salesman.”

“We have had mixed feeling over the past year or so on the importance of or success of retail branding programs at our level, the breeder/producer/supplier level, because for the most part we really don’t have a whole lot of control on what that product is or looks like or how it’s presented at the retail level,” added Falkenstein. “We felt that the actual grower who is supplying those products and who is working with their own regional brands or supporting brands at the retail level had the control so however we could help them with maybe genetics, products, product forms, technical support, just the supply aspects too is really where we needed to put our efforts.”

“We are, of course, going to be introducing some exciting new products at the Pack Trials. We are going to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of our business. We are going to really concentrate strongly on our reliability, order fulfillment and support to the broker salesman and grower. We took on a lot this year, and we’ve had some difficulty in supply just by the lateness of all the planning. We want to get back to being able to deliver on what we confirm, and we’ve done for the most part a good job on that, but some of the products have been a real challenge this year,” Falkenstein concluded.

“For us it was the logical business decision since we're no longer in vegetative,” explained Joel Goldsmith, president of Goldsmith Seeds. “We intend to continue our personal and professional relationships with one another on an informal basis rather than as part of a marketing alliance.”

“Trying to establish a brand…that effort was primarily at the big box retailers,” added Goldsmith. “And what really put the kabash on that was when Home Depot decided to use the Viva! brand in their stores. Home Depot was the one retailer that we’d had the most success getting our product into. So that looked like it wasn’t going to work, we were spending a lot of money on it, and now that we aren’t in the vegetative business, we have found that seed is much more difficult to brand than vegetative products because labels don’t go along with it. [Seeds] go through at least one more channel in handling, meaning that it goes to a broker. So it’s just harder to maintain that identity. We felt like if we could get the identity established we could put the seed into it, but when we decided we were not going to be able to get that brand established, then having the seed in the program didn’t make very much sense, especially at the cost that was required. So it really didn’t make that much sense for us to be in [the Alliance] any more. So that’s why we left.”

By way of example, according to Paul Ecke III, CEO of Ecke Ranch, Ecke will be offering a plug program using Goldsmith genetics. “Our goal is to offer integrated plug and cutting order fulfillment and prefinished programs that include both seed plugs and vegetative materials tailored to individual grower needs,” said Ecke. “Ecke and Yoder will continue to provide The Flower Fields brand as a program option for our customers, just as we did prior to Goldsmith and Fischer joining the Alliance,” Ecke added. “We’ll be making changes based on changes in market demands, so we can continue to offer growers and retailers solutions specific to their needs.”

According to the four companies, the fundamental operational relationships of The Flower Fields that led to easing the ordering and fulfillment process continue to be in place for the growers. “The Flower Fields has always offered flexibility, and flexibility requires permitting selection of suppliers, product combinations, product forms and the programs, or brand identification requested by the retailer or grower,” said Ecke. “Ecke and Yoder will continue to offer The Flower Fields tags, pots and other programs for use consistent with our customer needs.”

Due to the organizational and strategic changes, the companies will not be offering P. Allen Smith's Garden Home Collection as a retail program in 2005.

“Allen is the nation's leading voice to the home gardener and has helped build The Flower Fields brand at all levels, including our growers, which helps us as we transition to our B-to-B strategy,” said Ron Garofalo, The Flower Fields marketing director.

“I've enjoyed working with The Flower Fields,” said P. Allen Smith. “My focus remains on reaching out to home gardeners, and I will be working with other sources for my collection in several garden and home related categories.”

The broad and comprehensive range of the products offered by all four companies continues and will be on display at the Spring Trials 2005 combined Pack Trials at the Goldsmith facility in Gilroy, Calif. “Our business changed, the marketplace changed somewhat. We made a valiant effort and came up a little short. We’re still good friends, we’re still having Pack Trials together,” Goldsmith said. “We feel that’s worked very well. It will have a little different flavor because it won’t be the Flower Fields display, but the four companies will still be here and will put on a grand display again.” For information regarding the trials, see www.theflowerfields.com or contact tina@goldsmithseeds.com.

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