Younger plant-buyers thirst for knowledge
With fall colours on full display across much of the country and farmers hosting agri-tourism events paired with harvest, consumer experts say the on-farm experience helps set the stage for future loyalty and buyers – especially with the millennial and generation Z crowd.
Christina Mann, co-ordinator of Guelph-Wellington Taste Real local food initiative, says buyers who visit on-farm retailers seek authenticity and want to see production for themselves. Combined with a strong online presence to attract visitors, there’s also a need for digital information that helps consumers succeed with their purchases and brings them back for more.
“It’s in the court of the producer to educate them once they get there,” Mann says. “An on-farm visit can be fun, beautiful and informative.”
The same thirst for knowledge comes in the greenhouse sector, which is currently seeing a boom in plant purchases by younger generations.
Mya Kidson of Cambridge, Ont. is a second year University of Guelph student. She says she rarely buys anything without doing her research – almost exclusively online. That includes houseplants.
“If I’m going to invest in potted plants, I'd like them to be suited to my living conditions,” Kidson says. “That's why it's important to be educated and do my research beforehand, for information I’d find on a greenhouse website or other informative plant sites.”
Make plant buying a total experience
Plant industry experts suggest the sector manage its resources to reach new and potential long-term buyers like Kidson.
“These young buyers value the experience of buying and having a plant, not just the prestige of owning it or giving it as a gift,” says Mike MacLeod, head grower for Westbrook Greenhouses in Grimsby, Ont.
“A plant facilitates a connection with nature,” MacLeod says. “It means something different to them than to boomers or older adults. The industry needs to help them succeed in buying and growing plants.”
Young buyers are on the rise
MacLeod estimates young people like Kidson now comprise about one-third of his business and expects that figure will soon climb to one-half. So, he’s keen to cater to their need for information.
We listen to young people on our staff to see what they’re looking for when making plant purchases.
“In our own organization, we listen to young people on our staff to see what they’re looking for when making plant purchases,” MacLeod says. “Education is a key component.”
For example, edible plants are popular with young buyers. But they can also be discouraging to grow if a new plant owner gets them home and doesn’t realize their needs. The plants require more sunlight than many apartments may be able to provide, he says, and usually do better on a balcony.
Information doesn’t mean an instruction manual
Amy Bowen, research director for consumer insights at the Vineland Research Innovation Centre, says the kind of information producers provide is important. New buyers will likely need help with processes such as repotting – they may not even realize repotting is necessary to keep some of their plants alive, because they’ve never been exposed to it.
The key with information she says is balance.
“With attention spans being brief, buyers need to know how to be successful, but they don’t want a lengthy instruction manual,” Bowen says. “Education can be an online presentation that gets to the point with good graphics.”
Millennial and generation Z consumers are helping drive a surge in plant purchases, but they thirst information to go along with the buying, experts say. Farmers play a role in delivering that knowledge, whether it’s information during an agri-tourism event or an informative website providing plant basic care instructions.
Article by: Owen Roberts