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One of the largest US greenhouse operations expands orchid branch: photo report of Green Circle Growers

While demand for orchids in the US has paled in comparison to demand for them in Europe, Green Circle Growers has spent the last several years trying to change that. Their Just Add Ice line of orchids has been well received and they've expanded their greenhouse facilities to feed the growing demand for orchids in the US.

John van Wingerden started Green Circle in 1968 with a small greenhouse on little more than an acre of land. Together with his brother, they built a business that focused on bedding plants. The business grew and John's sons joined the endeavor. By 2000, they had grown to 50 acres on which they supplied a multiple range of products to be sold on the wholesale market. They provided a variety of fall and Spring flowers for large chain stores, but seeing an opportunity to expand into the orchid market, they decided to further diversify their business in 2006.

Click here to see the photo report made at Green Circle Growers

“We traveled a lot to Europe, and we noticed that orchids were a much bigger deal there than they were in the United States,” said Jason van Wingerden, who is in charge of marketing for Green Circle. “When we started doing orchids, there were maybe 20 million plants being produced in the US every year, which was much less than the roughly 100 million orchids that were being produced annually in Europe.”

Most orchid production was located in California and Florida, so Green Circle's production facility in Ohio put them closer to a similar climate like to growers in Europe are taking advantage of. With that shipping advantage, they looked into building the same high end production facilities and a brand they could market to American consumers.

“We knew that we not only needed a good product, but also needed a good brand. We wouldn't have started with orchids if we didn't have that,” said van Wingerden. Knowing that American consumers were less educated about orchids than their European counterparts, Green Circle came up with the Just Add Ice brand. Because it's easy to over-water orchids, van Wingerden knew they had to make it easy for consumers to care for their plants. It wasn't enough to grow, ship, and sell the orchids, though each of those phases posed significant obstacles that needed to be overcome; he knew they had to offer post-sale support to really get retailers and consumers on board.

“We made it very simple for consumers,” said van Wingerden. “We told them that they just had to add three ice cubes per week and that's it.” The approach has worked, and while their consumer base has increased very fast thanks to an ingenious marketing strategy, they're now finishing up construction of the last three acres. The new greenhouses are part of their 25 acre expansion for the orchid operation. The orchids have been received so well that they're now looking at expanding their brand with additional offerings like Anthuriums, mini orchids, and in September they will start with some Bromelia's. "All high-end crops with a high value for the customer, plants to cherish."

“We're finishing up the latest phase of expansion, but we're not done yet because there's still lots of potential to grow,” said van Wingerden. “The idea is to start with orchids and then bring other plants into the brand as well.”

Including the high-end orchid facility, Green Circle Growers' acreage now is about 100 acres. Together with their grower manager Frank Paul, made a tour throughout the facility.

Click here to see the photo report made at Green Circle Growers

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