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Plant brokers fill a niche in supermarket floral

At the 2017 Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition in Fort Lauderdale, FL, in January, I met several plant brokers whose job is to assist in selecting, sourcing and shipping a variety of tropical plants for customers ranging from interiorscapers and landscape designers to garden centers and supermarket floral departments.

“As a broker, we oversee the entire market and have multiple supply chains for different products,” Suzanne Mulvehille, president at Miami Tropical Plants in Delray Beach, FL, told The Produce News. “We work with close to 100 growers and we supply distributors who then supply supermarkets. One of the reasons people buy from a broker like us is that if they are looking for a large number of a particular variety, one grower may only have X number of that variety, whereas we have a number of growers that we work with and we can supply an unlimited number of that variety — within reason.”

MIAMI-TROPICAL-PLANTSThe Miami Tropical Plants booth was bustling at the 2017 Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition in Fort Lauderdale (above). Joy Candler, customer service and plant purchasing representative at Morning Dew Tropical Plants in Delray Beach, FL, was ready to greet customers (below).Kingston White, president at Morning Dew Tropical Plants in Delray Beach, FL, said the company’s distribution channels don’t necessarily accommodate small size orders, “But we do serve some [supermarket] companies that have a lot of stores; if a chain has five or six stores, and have a pretty beefy floral department, we will serve some of the stores in the chain,” White said. “And we can ship directly to a supermarket’s distribution center and that’s a really good option for grocery stores who would want to get some of our product. Our specialties are houseplants, and interiorscape plants, and plants that are of high quality for florists. We do a lot of spaths, bromeliads, orchids, cacti and succulents.”

One of the biggest benefits of working with a plant broker is that they do all of the sourcing and legwork for you.

“Because we are brokers, we are not limited by what we can grow on our benches, we have access to all of the top growers,” said White. “You get one invoice and have access to 150 different growers in Florida, with one phone call to us. Our role is to source high-quality material on a consistent basis for our customers and we do that by constantly staying up-to-date on what is being grown and going out and seeing the product to make sure that what we are offering is the best of what is available. So we are the eyes for our customers out-of-state to make sure we are getting the best quality material to our customers. We also help our customers because we are impartial and we have access to all of the growers that are doing this commercially for florist quality.”

In addition, Morning Dew services traditional wholesale florists who have a demand for tropical plants.

Mendy Hendren from Custom Foliage in Plymouth, FL, told The Produce News, “We’re a little bit different from other brokers because we bring the product into our warehouse, we actually box it ourselves, we see everything that goes out the door, whereas some brokers place orders and the growers ship on their behalf. We can cherry pick from the best nurseries around and other than some of the large plants we ship out of Homestead, we see everything.”

Hendren believes that convenience and one-stop shopping are the main advantages of working with a plant broker.

“Most of our customers ship every week, so the order size will vary depending on the holiday or the time of year,” said Hendren. “One customer will take a truckload at a time, some people buy only 10 cases, so it varies. One call, one invoice, one bill of lading.”