Greenhouse Management: With this being such an odd year, what has the market for houseplants been like from your perspective?
Joche Smith: About 50% [of our business] is indoor houseplants with the rest being annuals, perennials and blooming tropicals. We’ve seen demand surge in the last couple of years and I don’t know if anyone could have predicted what happened this year. We all were a bit concerned in April when there were shutdowns going on and several of our markets were closed off to us. But when things opened back up in May, it was crazy. We’ve been selling [houseplants] at a pace that’s hard to keep up with and right now, we’re struggling with it. We’ve been beneficiaries for sure — beneficiaries of this demand we could have never predicted — and we are now making plans for next year trying to guess and understand how much of this demand is going to stick and how much of this demand is also just a one-time thing. People were already buying more houseplants, but I hope it gets supercharged by some new consumers that we might have picked up over the last several months.
GM: As far as the supply chain goes, did you have any significant hiccups in getting product out?
JS: As far as the foliage side of the business, our grow times range from a couple of months to over a couple of years. So on average, it’s about six months grow time on our foliage, so it’s not like we saw demand surge in May, and we saw that we could do a heck of a lot that could affect this spring or this summer. The stock plants we have in place are programs that we have been working on for years and, frankly, it’s really hard to increase the supply in a very short period of time. We just have to deal with the decisions we’ve made over the last several years, but we’ve made big, big bets on things that we’re going to be counting on. We just couldn’t make any short-term decisions that were going to help us out for this year.
GM: Are there specific varieties Costa Farms is betting on for 2021 or beyond?
JS: We introduced ‘Trending Tropicals’ this year. We’ve always had a 6-inch line and then an upgraded line. But we felt like we were missing a price point and an offering that we call ‘super premium.’ In the past, we’ve been too fast in saying, ‘This is the next plant and it takes a lot of time to grow. Make it premium!’ Now, we are scrutinizing a lot, bringing in plants from a lot of different places — most of which were propagated in the Dominican Republic, some of which are brand-new introductions. But the line is the ‘Trending Tropicals’ line. We are doubling the size of that offering next year.