FloraLife – Blooming Marvellous
FloraLife shows us how to build a truly global floral supply chain.
Who is FloraLife? Just by reading the name or seeing the logo, your mind would probably immediately connect to the idea that it has something to do with flowers. What you would learn very quickly once you do become involved in the flower world, however, is that at any level of the distribution chain, FloraLife has everything to do with flowers. True pioneers of the floral industry, this is the company that invented the very first flower food in the United States in 1938. Leading in innovation ever since, FloraLife is dedicated to developing products to help their customers deliver the freshest, strongest, most attractive, and longest-lasting flowers possible from farm to vase. Ultimately, their goal is to maximize the consumer’s experience with flowers!
“Our ‘Follow the flowers’ philosophy is how we built our whole business model,” Vice-President of FloraLife Jim Daly says.
Having been in the industry for 84 years and counting, FloraLife has long been considered the expert in fresh-cut flower care and the leader in post-harvest flower care and handling. Anything that happens to a flower after it is harvested falls into FloraLife’s speciality as part of Smithers-Oasis, the largest manufacturer of floral products in the world. What does it mean to FloraLife to be considered the expert in flower care? Having the trust and confidence of their clients is beyond measure and something they truly do not take lightly or for granted. Their customer-centric approach to the floral industry has led to innovations and the advancement of technology in ways never imagined possible 84 years ago.
“Since our inception we’ve continued to partner with our customers, creating a line of floral care products to hydrate, feed, treat, transport, store and protect at every step of the distribution chain,” says Global Marketing Director Sharon Mikulinski. “We engineer, manufacture and sell products specifically formulated to the needs of flowers from the moment they are harvested, to when they are delivered to the consumer and all the stops along the way. We ensure they thrive and last as long as possible, giving the consumer the best possible experience and a reason to come back to buy more.”
FloraLife is proud to be a total cut flower solution provider, educator and resource for the vibrant and always dynamic global floral industry.
A Globally Positioned Company
We learned very quickly when FloraLife says they are worldwide, they mean exactly that. As we had the pleasure of speaking to FloraLife’s team of directors, we were literally connected to every corner of the globe. Since 2007, FloraLife has been a part of the Smither-Oasis company. Smithers-Oasis currently has four divisions that proudly serve the global floral supply chain, OASIS® Floral Products, FloraLife, Oasis® Grower Solutions and Design Master®. Together, these four divisions are present at every stage of the floral supply chain in more than a mind-boggling 140 different countries with 20 manufacturing distribution facilities, 34 sales offices, and nine research facilities. A necessary response to an increasingly globalized flower market, the company’s growth does not look to be slowing down any time soon.
“30 years ago, flowers were grown locally, but as globalization increased and the technology developed to transport flowers long distances, flowers were able to be grown in the most efficient locations,” says Jim Daly.
Having tactically positioned locations throughout the globe to cater to specific growing regions and the industry as a whole has not only proven to be advantageous to FloraLife’s customers but a competitive advantage for the company as well.
“The majority of the flowers we buy today in our local supermarkets or florists are grown in South America, Central America, and Africa and then transported to markets such as North America, Europe and Japan,” Daly adds.
FloraLife’s focus is on how to best handle the flowers from a consumption point of view.
“Because we’re strategically located with boots on the ground in different markets around the world, we experience trends, shifts and developments quickly and can communicate this information across our teams allowing us to be proactive in response,” says Mikulinski. “Industry players from one part of the world ask us for trends in other parts of the world. For us, it is simple because if we do not already have this information, it is all just a phone call away. Our customers have gotten used to working with us as a resource.”
As they say, perspective is everything and to be able to see your business from multiple vantage points has value and benefits beyond measure.
“Having that global perspective at the director level keeps us very agile because we’re being reported into from a global footprint, not a local footprint,” says Mark Allen, FloraLife’s Global Product Manager.
This company embraces a customer-first attitude without exception. It is such an ingrained part of their company culture that no matter what team member you speak with, the first and foremost question always is: how can we help? No matter what product you buy, knowledge is key, and when the FloraLife team is partnered with a client they are not just selling them a product but providing total solutions. Their professional expertise is offered freely with a lot of hands-on consultation, education, and training on how to use FloraLife products and care and handling practices that together will yield the best results for their clients. FloraLife is committed to the success of its clients, and that commitment never stops. Once partnered with FloraLife, you have a resource that your business can count on without hesitation.
Marco Marques, FloraLife’s Global Sales Director, has been with the company for nearly 20 years, operating from Germany with sales teams in Africa, Europe, North America and South America.
“I would not call our approach a classic sales approach. It is about selling a solution and adding value to the customers’ bottom line,” Marques tells us. “We start by understanding the status quo of the customer with a free audit by our technical experts. We check key influencing factors on flower quality but also efficiency. We discuss the outcomes of that audit with the customer and produce improvement areas, including focus areas for the customers. We start with the grower, asking what we can do for them.”
Cutting waste is one of the first improvements FloraLife usually offers, decreasing wastewater by providing special, pre-mixed flower food solutions that have been through research and quality control procedures.
“When the growers mix it themselves that is not the case. They can work okay but not as well as the commercial products,” Marques adds. “These homebrews can also only be used once, ours can be used as many as four times. We look at what is less obvious, using our vast experience so that we have an eye for things the customers might not be looking at.”
Sharing internal knowledge, products, services, and expertise to educate every level of the floral industry is what FloraLife is all about.
The Innovation Game
How does FloraLife stay at the top of the innovation game in the floral industry? Since the beginning, FloraLife has been a company founded on innovation. Research and development have been the foundation on which the business was built. That international perspective means FloraLife is exposed to a wide array of challenges and solutions, consequently fuelling innovation. Often when faced with solving a particular problem for a client the issue at hand has become the catalyst for a new discovery that can benefit the industry as a whole.
“I estimate we launch three to four new products a year,” Daly says.
It is an approach that has yielded innovations such as the EthylBloc™ technology*, which prevents flowers from sensing Ethylene, lengthening their lives. FloraLife also invented FloraLife® Express Technology, a product platform that makes re-cutting flowers before putting them in a vase or bucket unnecessary.
“I think of innovation in three buckets,” Daly says. “The first is the consumer, the retail florist or the mass marketer, who drives a lot of innovation. Then there is the grower whose problem is making the flowers last through the logistics chain. Finally, there is the old Steve Jobs quote ‘nobody knew they needed an iPhone’. We invent things nobody knew they needed, like EthylBloc™*, a revolutionary technology that is even used in the food industry. Most apples you eat right now are treated with that.”
Another area that FloraLife has mastered is sustainability. It has never been as important as it is today to track and reduce our footprint on the planet. Growing, processing and distributing flowers use many resources to guarantee that high quality, beautiful fresh cut flowers reach the hands of consumers. Floral industry waste impacts almost all areas of sustainability. Putting measures in place to reduce it should be top of mind. Every stem requires land to grow, water to hydrate, products to treat, energy to cool, packaging to protect, fuel to ship and lots of labour.
“When a flower does not make it to the end consumer, it is not only the flower that is wasted. It is also all the resources that went into growing, packaging, protecting and shipping it through the long chain. Having the proper flower care and handling protocols in place not only ensures that you put top quality flowers in the hands of consumers, but it also can significantly reduce waste which in turn reduces your footprint on the planet,” says Mark Allen, FloraLife’s Global Product Manager.
“We went back to school, educating ourselves at the Institute for Sustainability Leadership, University of Cambridge, to really understand sustainability,” Allen recalls. “It was an extensive, eye-opening course where we learned about the challenges the world is facing in terms of carbon footprint, water usage, biodiversity loss and the rest of the nine planetary boundaries. It bridged the gap between the projects we were doing and the bigger picture we were trying to achieve.”
With a focus on climate change, water stewardship, product portfolio, sustainable packaging and stakeholder awareness, sustainability has been and will continue to be a key area of activity at FloraLife going forward. Through 2025 and beyond, FloraLife is committed to reviewing the efficiency of its supply network, leveraging its footprint and consolidating shipments.
“It’s not enough to understand sustainability and the actions we’re taking, we need synergy across the whole industry,” Allen says. “Reviewing, tracking and reporting have never been so important.”
A Passion for Flowers
Why is FloraLife so passionate about flowers? A study at Rutgers University has demonstrated that flowers in our environment have a positive impact on our health, well-being and happiness. They touch people’s emotions directly, and receiving flowers evokes a genuine and immediate response. This study found flowers were by far the gift people appreciated the most. Reviewing responses of gift recipients, fruits, candles, or other traditional gifts did not compare in immediate or lasting response.
“When we receive flowers, we are instantly happy, smiling. We include flowers in nearly every celebration throughout our lives,” says Mikulinski. “Flowers are one of the few gifts that evoke a powerful and immediate response. Flowers create intimacy, not just for the recipient, but also the giver, making a connection as few other gifts can.”
Making that feeling last as long as possible, creating an experience with flowers that exceeds a consumer’s expectations and bringing them back for more is what FloraLife is all about.
“That’s what drives our whole culture,” says Marques. “That is the driving force behind everything we do.”
*EthylBloc™ is a trademark of AgroFresh
Jim Daly, Vice-President Marco Marques, Global Sales Director
Mark Allen, Global Product Manager & Sharon Mikulinski, Global Marketing Director of FloraLife