Flamingo Group International – Continuing to Bloom

We continue to track the progress of Flamingo Horticulture as they adapt to the new normal and pave the way for a sustainable future.

Flamingo Group International is a vertically integrated agribusiness, encompassing flowers and produce, to provide customers with the highest quality and leading best practice in the supply chain. We have been following Flamingo’s journey for several years, but perhaps none have been eventful as the last twelve months.

It’s been an interesting and challenging year for every business,” admits Giles Turrell, CEO of the Flamingo Group International. “Like every business, we’ve had to grapple with Covid. Our number one goal was ensuring our people were safe, then seeing how we could support our customers, and finally how we could adapt our business model given Covid.”

Succeeding Under the New Normal

Despite the obvious challenges, Flamingo has been doing well.

“It has been a reasonably successful year, our team have been amazingly resilient,” Turrell tells us. “We’ve taken every precaution to keep them safe as they’re bringing in flowers to brighten up people’s homes during lockdown or bringing in produce as people were cooking more at home. It’s a credit to the business, the people and the customers.”

The result is that Flamingo Group International has adapted to operate under the “new normal”, but as Turrell reminds us, it has been a long journey.

“If you go back a year ago, we were very unsure what the disease meant. It was a dangerous and scary situation,” he recalls. “We broke our shifts up into cells to avoid cross-contamination and introduced random testing to make sure we were picking up infections. We partitioned people so that if there was an infection it didn’t take the whole team out, only those directly impacted. We had a lot of protocols in place, right down to the way people walked around sites. We reduced capacity on buses, introduced hand-washing facilities, gave out free masks, all to ensure everyone remained safe. Those people who didn’t need to be in the office were encouraged to work from home and technology has been an incredible enabler for that. But it all comes back to the amazing resilience of our team.”

Flamingo Horticulture has been using that resilience to try and give back to and support the communities it works within during these unprecedented times.

“We’ve invested into communities in Kenya and Ethiopia, working with industry to get vaccinations for our staff and the wider community, where we’re trying to support and get contributions from our customers,” says Ian Michell, Flamingo Group International Technical Director. “In both Ethiopia and Kenya, we did food parcels, continued to support local schools, and run the local hospitals. We provided over half a million meals for schools over the last 12 months, as well as education packs for our local schools when they were home-schooling. We intend to roll this out further up to 2 million meals for schools as many return to school post-Covid 19.”

Flowering Opportunity

While Covid-19 has clearly been a game-changer, it hasn’t stopped Flamingo from moving forward and setting goals for the business. In fact, this year marks a major milestone for the company from a sustainability perspective.

“We are now carbon neutral across the business,” Turrell tells us. “All the products we grow and ship around the world are carbon neutral. Effectively we’ve done that through offset. We take that incredibly seriously and we’re very proud of the work.”

As Michell adds, “We’ve worked very closely with the team at OneCarbon World, and that also has led to us moving into another project, agricapture. It’s a pilot scheme for developing our carbon credits for the future, so we don’t rely on offset.”

As well as achieving carbon neutrality, Flamingo Group International has also been looking into how it does business in the digital sphere. One of the indirect consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic is that businesses have re-evaluated the entire online retail platform.

“We service a number of online digital platforms that provide flowers to consumers in the UK,” says Turrell. “If you went on some of these platforms and chose a gift, we would be the ones providing it.”

During the pandemic, particularly lockdown, Flamingo’s online sales took on new significance.

“What was really interesting in Covid was a lot of people couldn’t’ visit friends and families but they could give flowers and we’ve seen growth in helping people continue to connect,” Turrell says. “If you can’t see your aunt or uncle or granny someone else in the country, you could still send and receive a bunch of flowers. We were well placed to do that, and it’s become an important growth engine for us.”

Here to Serve

Looking forward, Flamingo Group International’s main priority remains serving its customers and helping them grow.

“Whether that’s in produce or premium flowers, we are working closely with our key customers, asking how we can help them grow their business, how we can continue to support that online gifting occasion with new kinds of bouquets,” Turrell tells us. “We’re investing in our Kenyan footprint in terms of what we can do for the quality of the flowers and our produce. We will also continue to invest in UK facilities to offer the best quality to our retail partners. We will continue investing in people, in automation and the cold chain.”

The key element in this vision of the future is the continued strong relationships Flamingo Horticulture has with its retail customers. These relationships are something Covid-19 has only made Turrell appreciate more.

“When covid first broke it was very challenging on the supply chain, with all the panic buying going on,” he remembers. “But as we got through into this time last year things started to smooth out. Our customers recognised the role flowers play, the importance of a premium offering. They also recognised the vital role we play in communities, particular in Kenya. They were keen to support us and vice versa. There’s always room for improvement but we continue to work closely with all of our partners to bring them quality, innovation, and new solutions.”

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