Bloomin Amazing was first distributed in March 2018 and was officially launched at Glee in September 2018, since when it’s become firmly established in the growing media sector as the leading organic soil enricher and mulch.
From a standing start just three years ago, Bloomin Amazing is now found in more than 340 garden centres across the UK and regularly features in the GTN Best Sellers lists.
It’s a great British success story and we caught up with Nick Finding, Managing Director as he prepared for Glee 2021 to ask him how he’s achieved such remarkable success in such a short time.
1. Where did the idea for Bloomin Amazing come from?
Our anaerobic digester (AD) which produces green gas for the town of Poundbury, was opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2012, who takes an active interest in the project. Sustainability has always been key to all of us, and we wanted to look at ways we could make effective and sustainable uses of our by-products. We have always used the digestate by-product very successfully on the farms as a fertiliser to replace artificial imported fertilisers, and also by using its organic qualities as a soil conditioner. However, after also using it with enormous success in our own garden, and in a friends’ garden who was hosting a wedding, it gave us the confidence to develop it for home gardeners too.
2. How is it produced and what gives it such a good sustainability profile?
The AD plant is fed with green crops grown within a few miles, so the raw materials are entirely natural and local. The crops are fed into the digester which behaves just like a huge cow’s stomach creating methane, and we were the first in the UK to clean the biogas produced from the digestion process for the biomethane to be extracted and injected into the national gas network to heat local homes - 7500 in winter and over 100,000 in the summer. What’s left after the gas is extracted is a rich, moist and crumbly by-product of entirely organic material, loaded with nutrients – the perfect soil conditioner, mulch and plant feed.
3. How did you come up with the brand name?
Initially ‘Bloomin Amazing’ came from discussing it with my wife in a hot tub in the mountains! However, then we spent quite a long time researching the market and reviewing all the information and, of course the competitors. It was quite helpful being new to the garden category because we found that lots of people didn’t really understand the technical descriptions of mulch type products. So, we needed something that was memorable and distinctive, but also easy to understand the principle of what to expect when you buy a bag!
4. How did you go about designing your brand?
We started with very clear objectives, a well-defined consumer to aim at, and an understanding of the retail environments we hoped to compete in. Then we invited several experienced and respected design agencies to present their ideas – from which we selected our partners for all aspects of our graphic design. One of their clearest objectives, that pretty much sold their pitch to me, was that we had to ‘disrupt the consumer’. Since then, and after investing heavily into the black art of marketing, we’ve been very careful to stick to the brand guidelines they helped us to develop, and maintaining clear and consistent graphics has been a cornerstone of our marketing.
5. What marketing did you undertake when you launched?
Most importantly we had the good fortune to link up with our business developer Jane Lawler, who has held our hand throughout our journey, and has been critical to our success. On her recommendation we applied for GLEE 2018 which was our launch pad really, and we entered the new product awards which definitely helped our profile at the show, especially when we won the ‘Best of British’ award as well. I think the thing that really got us noticed though, was being awarded the GIMA Seed Corn Fund – which was a recognition of our work and success and such a great boost for the whole Bloomin Amazing team too.
6. To what do you put down your initial success with garden centres?
Early on we were introduced to a couple of people – as a result of rugby links - with long-established experience in garden products supply, especially in the growing media sector. Their guidance on issues like pricing, supply chain, deliveries and terms, plus an in depth understanding of the technicalities of bagging, storing and transporting bagged media were invaluable. It helped us avoid all sorts of pitfalls in the early months.
7. How do you feel about the new competitors that are now following in your footsteps?
We always knew that some of the other 100 or more biomethane injection AD plants that came after us, and the 500 odd electric generating AD plants in the UK were likely to try and follow our example, and of course it’s really good news for gardeners and garden retailers. With the need to eliminate peat, everyone is looking for viable alternatives, and there should be room for all of us to help resolve this.
8. How do they compete with Bloomin Amazing?
From a technical perspective, all crop-based digestates are quite similar with high organic content and moderate nutrient levels. However, it is important that the feed stocks used are entirely plant based if they’re going to be successful garden products. AD plants that use green waste, or food waste, or animal products for example can produce digestate with variable nutrient consistency and, occasionally, may be contaminated with plastics or worse. Waste digestate is also pasteurised which isn’t great really if you want a product that will perform best organically.
9. How does Bloomin Amazing compare on price?
We set out to use a system of market pricing from the very start. For a commercially successful product we knew that the price needed to be in line with existing competitor product. So, you’ll find Bloomin Amazing on a par with the established and brand leading products from the major suppliers. Some of the new entrants have clearly adopted a very different approach with much higher pricing both at retail and online. It’s not a strategy that we believe will drive the volumes we aspire to, and the best proof of that is probably the number of garden centres we are currently distributing to.
10. How can you be so competitive on price compared with other digestates?
Our business model is very simple and streamlined. We invested significantly at the start in fast, sophisticated filling machinery that requires the minimum of operator support and maintenance. Our plan is to continue to focus on building further efficiencies into the production and distribution of our single product – a 50 litre bag. I don’t’ believe that proliferating into lots of variants and formulations will add value, and it would certainly add complexity and therefore cost, never mind add to the plastic problems facing the industry when we should be looking more to reducing them, as we have in pioneering trials of a new biodegradable plastic.
11. Have you been able to maintain supply through the recent volatile demand?
Firstly, we have pretty much unlimited supply of raw material, and a bagging plant that can run at up to 8 bags per minute. Then we have a team that are highly motivated and happy to put in the extra hours in evenings and weekends when required for which I am very grateful. We were caught out earlier this season due to unprecedented demand and we ran out of bag film that delayed us by a few weeks, but compared with some other horrific lead times of 8 weeks or so we heard about in the industry we soon recovered and were able to get back to next day or latest 2-3 days. Lessons learnt as well, and our bag film orders are now ordered months in advance to cope with most things.
12. What are you plans for 2022?
Increase our garden centre coverage to nearer 500, we already have commitment to circa 400 for next year, and then we are doing trials to look at a blended product that should make a big impact in the market.
To find out more, catch up with Nick on 6G01.