For decades, nine out of ten flowers on display in China were red. Today, Chinese consumers want all colors of the rainbow, in every variety imaginable. China is a challenging market for Dümmen Orange, the Netherlands-based leading supplier to China of plant and flower base starting material. “Taste in flowers starts to differ and matter”, says Henry Hsieh, Commercial Manager.
Chinese consumers are getting more flower and plant savvy. Today, city dwellers want to add color to their home and have the spending power to do so. Many flowers and plants are flown in from Europe on a daily base, but there is also a fast-growing local industry of plant and flower growers that cater for the new, demanding market. “Simply put: we supply the Chinese growers with the young plants, the cuttings – the base material – for these products, from all over the world together with our partners in China”, says Henry Hsieh, Commercial Manager for Dümmen Orange in China, who was born in Taiwan and grew up in The Netherlands. He runs the commercial operation for the company with a staff of 20 in the Shanghai headquarter.
Flower regions in China
China has quite a thriving flower and plant industry, that is mainly concentrated in south western Yunnan region and with pockets spread around in China such as in the Northeastern Dalian area, in Liaoning province. There are also concentrations of growers around most of the country’s first tier cities. Henry Hsieh has several loyal growers/partners in Dalian, a lesser-known region that he regards as a very promising area for business. “This was one of the first Chinese cities that had a policy of creating a high-quality living environment using plants. It is therefore not surprising that the region has its fair share of growers.”
Traditionally, city governments and the congress, hotels, fairs, exhibitions, events and convention industry used to be the biggest spenders on flowers and plants. “Corporate consumption, as we call it, defined the market. Today the consumer market is blossoming”, Henry adds with a smile. “Until now, the increased buying power went into houses, cars, good food and products like wine. Buying plants and flowers is the next step for many Chinese consumers. And they want their flowers in all colors, their plants in every variety.”
This puts pressure on China’s growers. “And on the breeders and suppliers of the starting materials for cut flowers and pot plants, like Dümmen Orange. And it is not just the roses they want. Our partners, the growers, order tens of thousands – and in some cases: millions – of roses, chrysanthemums, gerberas, carnations and several other flower products to increase their production, necessary to handle growing demand. Also, we need to have total control of our supply chain from all parts of the world to China, as we are dealing with perishable products.”
The right products and colors
The biggest challenge is to get the right products, colors and varieties to China’s growers, of the highest quality, in all of the categories of cut flowers, annuals, perennials, pot plants, tropical plants and flower bulbs. “Getting it right is crucial and we have to be well aware of the local culture in colors. Some yellow and white flower varieties will never sell in China, as many people associate them with funerals.
What are the trends among Chinese consumers today? “Let me start by saying that it changes all the time, we constantly have to be on the lookout for new colors and shapes to support our growers/partners. Right now, there are certain varieties in roses that Chinese consumers love, that look very different from traditional roses. One example is the ‘eye series’. It is very different from ordinary roses, because of its green heart and its intense colors. It is a rose, but it is different. It is the same for plants. Anything out of the ordinary could be a sales winner”, Henry insists.
Henry Hsieh envisions a bright future for flowers and plants and for Dümmen Orange in China. “Despite the fact that the economy is not growing as fast as it used to, wages are still going up in China. Flowers and plants that used to be a luxury are now more affordable. A way to soften and color your environment with live material. A product that allows you to express yourself and to show that you have good taste. The flower and plants industry will continue to grow for a while”, says Henry Hsieh.