Millennials, newcomers trigger new horticulture trends

  • Sep 19, 2019

New opportunities are emerging for horticulture producers who are positioned to help enthusiastic millennials and new Canadians develop a green thumb and make their homes more verdant.

Sales of plants and flowers are on a roll. They helped fuel nearly a three per cent sales increase last year in Statistics Canada’s broad group that includes the greenhouse, nursery, field cut flower and sod industry.

Plants produced in Canadian greenhouses accounted for more than 85 per cent of total flower and plant sales – which experts attribute to interest from young people and recent immigrants.

“This is a completely new market,” says Mike von Massow of the University of Guelph and the Ontario Agricultural College chair in food systems leadership. “The trend we’re seeing with the uptake of potted plants is analogous to what we’re seeing in the food sector, and serving those interests is a real opportunity for growers.”

Hungry for engagement

Two factors are at play. First, millennials are hungry for the chance to be actively engaged in something tangible and traditional, like growing plants or making their own food. Their workday is hectic, and they want a different experience at home, especially if they live in an apartment or condo with little or no green space.

“In an increasingly urban, frantic-paced lifestyle, plants are calming and comforting,” von Massow says. “They offer psychological benefits and help people connect with nature.”

And in some cases, plants are functional and aesthetic. Von Massow points to the uptake of edible flowers as an example.

“They’re food that people living without gardens can not only produce in their homes, but consume as well,” he says. 

Plants pull at heartstrings

Certain plants pull at the heartstrings of new Canadians who associate them with their homeland. Studies led by Dr. Alexandra Grygorczyk at Ontario’s Vineland Research Innovation Centre show as many as 90 per cent of surveyed Asian Canadians wish flowers from their country of origin were more available in Canada.

The centre is responding. Research trials are showing promise for jasmine sambac, a plant traditionally popular in Asia.

“Its distinctive scent is nostalgic for Asian Canadians,” says Amy Bowen, the centre’s research director for consumer insights.

More options for greenhouse operators

As well, in the greenhouse, jasmine sambac does well in summer conditions – high heat and long light, especially – which can be challenging for many traditional Canadian greenhouse plant varieties.

That stands to give greenhouse operators yet more options during seasons when they’re operating at below capacity.

And its projected $20 retail price makes it an attractive option for greenhouse producers, who can grow three plants for about $5, according to the centre’s research.

Bowen says marketing approaches that appeal to these new buyers, especially digital marketing, which drives so many of their other decisions, will drive uptake, more so than price.

“Our research shows that if they want it, they’ll pay for it,” Bowen says, “but they have to know where to find it.”

Bottom line

Millennials seeking to unwind at home and new Canadians are driving a surge in opportunities for horticulture producers. Research to meet the growing demand is underway, and greenhouses are looking at how to fit the new species into their growing schedules. 

Article by: Owen Roberts