Mark Portman, managing director of Evergreen Garden Care, reveals how successful Glee Gathering was for the award-winning company...
How was the Glee Gathering experience for the Evergreen Garden Care team?
Overall, virtual Glee was really good for us. We were all little apprehensive going into the event as the normal Glee event is such as good experience but once we had all done our first virtual meetings, we got into the swing of it and it went very well. By the end of the three days, we were all as tired as if it had been a normal event and managed to engage with many customers!
How many customers visited your ‘virtual’ showroom in the Hinkley Island Hotel?
Over the three days we held in excess of 200 customers meetings, including colleagues from our sales, marketing and management teams.
How did you all celebrate your win in the Glee New Product Awards?
We had many of our colleagues dialled in to watch the awards being announced online so there was a loud collective cheer when the award was announced along with a small tear of delight from these who had worked so hard on the project. There was a small number of us together for the Glee event, so we were able to enjoy a small glass of socially distanced champagne. The award is really great for the entire organisation who have worked on being able to deliver this exciting piece of innovation.
Our judges overwhelmingly voted for your peat-free range to be the winner of the growing materials category. What made you produce a complete range of peat-free growing media rather than just one or two lines?
We wanted to launch a full range of peat-free growing media that made the move to peat free alternatives simple, by offering alternatives across leading our brands Miracle-Gro and Levington. The range includes All-Purpose, All-Purpose with John Innes, Moisture Control, special plants including Azalea, Camellia and Rhododendron, Fruit and Veg planter, in-door houseplants and more peat free alternatives.
We have been reducing our use of peat year on year and take our responsibility for the peatlands seriously, so this was the next natural step in that journey. As an industry, we need to do more to move gardeners towards peat free solutions that still deliver premium quality results.
After an exceptional year, there is an increased demand for peat-free from our consumer and customer base. The limited availability of growing media this year has sometimes forced shoppers to compromise on what they want to buy. Through GfK industry data, we saw more and more people moving towards peat free, so we launched a range that will satisfy this demand whilst providing a solution for the needs of every plant.
What percentage of sales do you expect to be peat-free next year?
This is difficult to estimate especially after the remarkable season we have experienced this year with such high ongoing demand for Growing Media. As a rough estimate we are working on circa 15% of a normal season volumes for peat-free.
Can you increase production if demand starts outstripping supply as happened this year?
We are heavily involved in planning for 2021 with plans for stock build so that we enter the season with good stock levels both on growing media and the stock holding with our distribution partners. This will enable us to be responsive in the season to flex to any of the in-season demands.
How much testing has been undertaken at Levington prior to the launch of this new range?
Bringing the peat-free range of products to market has been the culmination of more than two years worth of work, including extensive testing at our fully accredited R&D facility at Levington.
With the Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Range, how well has that sold through this year?
We launched Miracle-Gro Performance Organics at Glee last year and in its first year, according to GfK data, it has outperformed other organic plant foods to have the top selling straights in the category. Three products from the range, Performance Organics All Purpose Concentrate Liquid, All Purpose Granules and Fruit & Veg Concentrated Liquid 1L, all ranked alongside market leading products to put organic plant food on the map as an in-demand staple for growers.
Do you think retailers will make even more of ‘organic’ and natural products in displays?
From the extensive research that we have undertaken talking to more than 13,000 consumers we know that gardeners are looking for more and more natural products. There has been an estimated 2.7m new gardeners enter the category this year and many of them are again looking for organic and natural products. We believe that this trend will continue and that retailers will continue to support it to drive further category growth by offering shoppers the products and brands that they are looking for.
What is the biggest change garden centres and other retailers will see when it comes to dealing with Evergreen Garden Care in 2021?
I will answer by saying that the best way to ensure good supply next year is in planning. So please, if any customer is thinking of doing a promotion or any type of activity please let us know so we can build this into our forecast and into our production plans.
Thank you for supporting #FloralFriday for Greenfingers. Why do Evergreen put so much support into this great industry charity?
The answer is partly in the question, it is a great charity doing fantastic work, and they have such a fantastic team who we really enjoy working with. Floral Friday and getting into Floral dress is something we all love to get behind at Evergreen, it’s a very worthwhile cause. We hope to continue to have a long relationship with Greenfingers, supporting the important work that they do.