Tapping into Poland’s retail potential

Nienke Bakker and Winfried Versluys from Zwet Tulips.

WARSAW, Poland: The phenomenal growth of the Polish market for cut flowers and ornamental plants continues is the driving force behind the continuing success of Fresh Market’s annual business-to-business event in Warsaw, held on 22 September.

Organised in conjunction with Floraculture International (FCI), the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), and the Dutch Embassy in Warsaw, this event saw 250 representatives attend from across Europe.

They were principally there to meet with the buyers from the largest retail chains in Poland, including Biedronka, Dino, Carrefour, Polomarket, to name but a few.

A speed-dating system allowed participants to meet for up to 10 minutes with each of the buyers.

While the time limit precluded the possibility of more in-depth conversations, the format ensured that every attendee had the opportunity to meet with at least some of the biggest players in the Polish market that has doubled in size in the last decade.

In addition, some of the participants got a chance to go on a retailer ‘safari tour’ to see first-hand what product was being offered to the Polish consumer.

Here’s what some of the participants had to say.

Arnold Rouws, cut flower consultant, Netherlands.

Arnold Rouws.

“I came to meet retailers because I can see that this is where the market is going. I’ve seen how integrated the market has become in the US, and I can see the same happening in Europe. For example, the Dutch auction is in danger of becoming a thing of the past. The consolidation of the market into the big retailers, along with highly developed logistics allows tulip growers to be here to market their own product to Polish supermarket customers.

“But it will take time for us to fully understand the market. For example, a Polish buyer might want Dutch or French sunflowers from May until September but not during July and August when there is a plentiful supply from local Polish growers.

“I can take that information back to the grower to help them design a production programme that is tailored to the market’s requirements.

“I’m also learning about what flower lines are popular here, and what will work best during the next year or two of inflation rates that are touching 20 per cent in this region.

“I can see the big chains like Lidl accelerate their expansion here during a recession since the smaller traditional corner shops just won’t be able to compete.”

Lisanne Borst, Color Pack, Netherlands

Lisanne Borst from Color Pack.

“We sell about 200 million stems of tulips to Europe’s biggest supermarkets.

“We’ve no customers in Poland yet, so this visit is to start a conversation with them to understand what they want.

“I’m glad I came because I’ve learned from the buyers that I’ve met that pricing and logistics are as important, if not more so, compared to quality which we tend to focus on.”

Manon Greeve, Stolk Flora, Netherlands

“We specialise in producing about 3.9 million orchids annually from 6 hectares of specialised glass.

“The orchid sector is going through massive contraction at the moment due to the unprecedented jump in heating costs.

“It is predicted that the 150 million orchids that are normally produced every year will drop by 30 per cent this year, which in turn has created massive demand for the product and increased prices by at least 50 per cent.

Manon Greeve.

“We traditionally sell through intermediaries, but it means that we are never sure that the story we tell the exporter is the one that eventually gets to the buyer.

“In addition we aren’t sure if we are hearing everything that the buyer wants us to know so this event is an opportunity to interact directly with the buyers.

“What I’ve heard so far suggests that this is a very price sensitive market which might mean that we will not grow that quickly here for the next few years.

“Some of the trends we see in orchids is a growing preference for smaller orchids simply because floor to ceiling windows mean there are less window sills for our plants to sit on. Side tables and desks are better suited to shorter plants that don’t get knocked over so easy.”

Winfried Versluis, Zwet Tulips

“This is my first time at the event but with over 90 per cent of our 200 million tulips going to supermarkets, we felt it was important to understand better what is driving growth here.

“We’ve been selling into Poland for eight years and have seen volumes grow by 5-10 per cent annually.

“However, there are always teething issues with developing any business, so meeting with the buyers directly is a good way for us to strengthen our relationships here.”

Wouter Jongkind, Royal Van Zanten

Wouter Jongkind of Royal Van Zanten.

“We specialise in breeding Chrysanthemum, Limonium, Bouvardia, Celosia among others.

“This is my first time here. We see our plants expanding in the retail business, especially with pot plants.

“It can be difficult to get good information back from the other end of the retail chain and that the main reason I’m here.

“I’ve been surprised to find out how many different links there are still in the supply chain out here. So it is a more complicated market to supply than I realised.

“We came here with examples of new Chrysanthemum plants that we are developing in reaction to the younger generation’s desire for different shapes and colours from.what their parents liked.

“We are seeing these trends establish earliest in Scandinavia and the UK market to a lesser extent but I think the Polish market might be more conservative.”

Vincent Madern, Vreugdenhil bulbs and plants

“We grow, along with other growers, 30 hectares of plants and sell about 20 million plants annually, along with 60 per cent of the global Amaryllis market.

“This is my first time here even though we started trading in Poland two years ago.

“Originally the focus was to develop markets across Eastern Europe and into Russia. We’ve only seen small growth so far but we believe that it has big potential.

Vincent Madern.

“I feel the retailers are looking for direct contact with growers in order to squeeze out costs from the supply chain. That’s a difficult space to navigate since we also need exporters and intermediaries to facilitate us in many markets.

“But the market is changing with retailers taking more and more volume from florists.

“That has implications for the type of product that we supply since the florist was more focused on premium quality than pure price.”

↑ Back to top