Plug Availability and Prices, and Marketing Herbs to Grocery Stores
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: KeriLynn Howe
Posted on: February 13, 1999

Great web site. We are exploring possibility of growing potted culinary herbs. Could you please email an availability and price list for plugs and any marketing suggestions for selling potted herbs to grocery stores or home centers?

We have a Commercial Herb Growers Catalogue which we can send to you. It is not yet available for viewing on our website, but most of the bulk seed and plug tray prices are already listed in our online catalogue. Commercial growers are entitled to volume and early booking discounts which are described in the commercial catalogue. To order your copy, please email your snail mail address to orderdesk@richters.com, or phone or fax us.

In the fall of 1999 we plan to bring out a our first expanded commercial herb growing catalogue. It promises to be a be source of useful information on all aspects of growing and marketing herbs, whether they are potted plants, fresh cut herbs, or dried herbs.

The grocery and home centre chain market appears to be an open market right now. We have not seen hardened loyalities develop yet to specific growers because the market is still fairly new to the large chains. We are seeing a lot of locally grown material being sold in chain stores, so that consolidation of supply has not yet happened to any significant degree. This leaves opening for smaller growers in select markets and it leaves openings for large growers to take over as regional suppliers.

The chains are likely to look to bedding plant growers for herbs, but bedding plant growers are notorious for growing the wrong varieties. For example, they prefer seed propagated varieties of mint and tarragon, but these are poor imposters of the real deals which must be grown from cuttings. While price is always the big issue for chains, growers that offer the right varieties are going to have an advantage over the bedding plant growers.

There are two distinct markets: the spring bedding plant season and the early spring and summer and fall potted plant market. The spring bedding plant season is by far the biggest market. But a grower who can offer product to extend the season -- e.g. larger pots in the summer and fall for immediate cutting -- will have an advantage.

It is interesting to note that in Germany, a country that is probably the most herbally aware among the Western developed countries, there is a thriving late season potted herb market for items such as chives. In Germany, consumers are used to the idea of buying forced potted herbs in the fall and winter for fresh cutting. There is no expectation of growing the herbs for any length of time indoors; only to get a few cuttings and then when the plant is spent, it is disposed of. This concept does not exist in North America yet, but we suspect that it could be an excellent opportunity for the right grower with a knack for intelligent marketing. Grocery chains are the obvious target for this type of product.

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