From the Editor: August 2013

July 22, 2013
Written by
Growing into new markets is good business. If you have a niche product, and the demand is developing, you’ll be quite busy for some time.

But don’t forget existing markets. They can be expanded, fuelled by a little creativity, research and investment, and they have as much potential for sales growth as do new products/markets.

With respect to new markets in home gardening, vegetable planters get my vote as the “next big thing.” Not only are they fun to grow, but they offer the tangible result of some fresh food for your salad plate or snack tray. (A couple of the grandkids a few years ago found my grape tomatoes quite captivating. After helping me pick a couple of ripe tomatoes one day, they then proceeded to clean up the plant during subsequent visits by going after the green tomatoes, too. Needless to say, the harvest was a little thin that summer.)

Container tomatoes, salad greens, beets, microgreens, peppers and cucumbers are just a few of the options.

On the grocery side of things, specialty products such as mini-cucumbers, grape tomatoes and mini peppers are strong sellers. Eggplant is an especially versatile vegetable, and a staple for
vegetarians; but too few people know how to use it.

The next big thing on the greenhouse vegetable side will be ethnic foods. Canada’s growing ethnic communities will offer markets for more specialized foods, and consumers will want them year-round and fresh. Almost every store has a section for such foods. In the off-season, almost all these products are imported from distant field producers, having spent days in storage and on trucks.

Clearly, there is no shortage of emerging new markets, and growers can take advantage of them, with a caveat. New markets require a lot of research and a lot of investment. They require specialized marketing strategies, as consumers must be educated in how to handle these new products.

But what of those markets you already serve? The good news is that they, too, have considerable room to grow.

On the ornamental side of things, plant sales in North America still fall well short of those experienced in Europe. We need the studies and research to identify how that gap can be closed. The Floral Marketing Research Fund (FMRF), in one initiative, is conducting a study to provide information on the motivations for – along with the barriers to – plant sales. The study focuses on consumers who have not purchased fresh flowers in the past 12 months and will provide insight into what could capture these customers.

As for vegetables, a three-year University of Guelph study is looking for ways to boost vegetable consumption. The study arose from research that showed that just eight per cent of Canadians eat the recommended number of vegetable servings each day. Imagine the impact on industry sales if that number was pushed over the 50 per cent level.

Existing markets do indeed have considerable growth potential. So don’t focus all of your attention on new products and markets. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the growth potential already in your backyard ... ripe for the picking.

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