Grow It Yourself

Discussion
Apr 18, 2007

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network

There’s an old adage that if you want a job done well, you should do it yourself. While many 21st century people pursuing “busy lifestyles” do not agree – and rely on manufacturers and retailers to provide an infinite variety of convenience foods and ready meals – there is a growing group in both the U.S. and U.K. that has decided to take growing into its own hands. Literally.

A recent article in London’s Guardian points to a growing love for growing food throughout England, amongst men and women, old and young. New figures from the Horticultural Trades Association show a 31 percent increase in the sales of vegetable seeds with a corresponding 32 percent decline in flower seeds. Onion and potato growing has increased dramatically, and many are looking to grow old varieties of vegetables that the industrial system has left behind and legislation has made hard to grow. In addition to people using their own gardens and window boxes, there are some 330,000 allotments producing thousands of tons of vegetables each year.

In the U.S., Robert Wolke, a professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, wonders in the Washington Post, “Whose spirits are not lifted by the sight of those first green shoots that emerge in the spring?” Waxing lyrical, he reminds readers of the biblical story in which God awarded them (seeds) third-day priority so that they would “produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.”

There are obviously many reasons for this trend. (Or fad? Who can tell at this point?) The Guardian article suggested several: the political desire to not be beholden to large supermarkets, a new awareness about healthy food and the environment, and deep dissatisfaction with industrially-grown food.

“It’s a fact that chefs are beginning to take up the idea of healthy foods and concern over chemicals,” Geoff Stokes, secretary of the National Association of Allotment and Leisure gardeners, told the Guardian. “Fifty years ago people turned to vegetable gardening to save money. Now it’s for fresh food and lifestyles.”

“I find it the best way to relax, the nearest thing to personal and political freedom,” said Joanne Nutley, 25, a Manchester allotment holder.

Discussion questions: What should manufacturers and retailers take from the “grow your own” trend? Does the behavior of those who grow their own suggest some broader underlying consumer desire and/or need that manufacturers and retailers can be tapping into?

[Author’s Commentary] There is far too much evidence of the demand for convenience and the reluctance of consumers to spend time cooking to pay any serious attention to the few who prefer to spend their leisure time doing it themselves. This is a no-brainer for manufacturers and retailers.

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

8 Comments on "Grow It Yourself"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Figures for sales to nonfarmers of fruit and vegetable seeds and plants aren’t easy to come by. Certainly there’s a lot of activity at lawn and garden retailers each Spring, and many customers line up each year for tomato plants, various herbs, and dwarf fruit trees. But are the unit sales of these items growing (ha-ha!)?

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Coming from rural agrarian roots and a long line of enthusiastic gardeners — this makes perfect sense to me. Gardening is one of the most therapeutic pursuits on earth.

But as a marketer, it ain’t happenin’ — at least not in the sense of making money off of selling seeds. Although I did note an expanded seed selection in my local Jewel/Osco while shopping for some yard patch last evening.

That’s not to say there isn’t an angle here for retailers, however. And that trend is growing; it’s called “locally grown.” For whatever reason, consumers attach health and emotional benefits to “locally grown” even though the stuff may be locally grown in a hydroponic system.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 1 month ago

I’m old enough to remember when “grow your own” had a different connotation entirely. That aside, this seems to be an area where there are all kinds of mixed up trends going on at once. The mainstream opportunity will continue to be to cater to those without the time, energy, or inclination to do much of anything themselves. But, there are too many niche opportunities to count to cater to those with a little more interest in hobbies like this.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 1 month ago

I agree that the “movement” (Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” comes to mind) doesn’t have much impact in the marketplace, but is rather tied to the growing trend toward organic, fresh, wholesome, etc. These are real trends that manufacturers have already been tracking and tapping into. This is not to say that watching such developments isn’t important. There’s a growing trend among high-end restaurants to use a ‘chef’s garden’ and cook dishes made from ingredients grown on site or grown for the chef by certain local growers. These developments are often the point of the arrow and reveal larger trends, just as one-of-a-kind garments seen on the runway ultimately determine what is going to be on the rack at J.C. Penney before long.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
15 years 1 month ago

Home gardening may indeed make a come back in the US as it appears to be in Britain. One inescapable fact that makes me believe that it will still be a niche market is simply this. Americans continue to abandon traditional meal preparation in favor of dining out, take out and prepared foods.

A sweeping “back to the garden” movement isn’t likely to shift this trend significantly. On the other hand, the desire for fresh and “organic” product, especially produce, may yet stir the millions of Americans who already garden to shift some of their resources to vegetables. For those who don’t or who live in patio environments that limit land available for cultivating a garden, clever marketing by retailers that includes merchandising patio gardeners assortments (boxes, soil, seeds, watering devices and so on) could tap into this potentially good sized niche.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

“Grow your own” will remain niche, mostly because people don’t have enough land, or time. Even up here in Vermont, where acres abound, I’ve found that people who try to start their own gardens usually take up deer hunting when the crop keeps disappearing overnight. So the lesson may be to stock seeds one year, and deer rifles the next.

Alison Chaltas
Guest
Alison Chaltas
15 years 1 month ago

The “grow your own” trend is symptomatic of two blossoming consumer trends–consumers connection with a simpler life and families striving to eat healthier every day. The retailers and manufacturers that can meet these needs in a convenient cost-effective way will win. The size of “grow your own” is not the big idea here. Offering simple, healthier solutions is the holy grail.

Bob Samples
Guest
Bob Samples
15 years 29 days ago
To attribute the “trend” towards home gardening as a link to the broader trend of more good for you foods may be a stretch. The trend is more likely linked to the empty nest of baby boomers yearning to get back to their roots. As a Midwesterner, we have always had gardens, but as our kids have now gone on to their own post-college lives, we again have time for a more serious pursuit of that garden. In fact, our own garden size is more than six times what it was just a few years ago. I don’t see this as a threat to the retailer as gardening has increased consumers’ interest in fresh produce and, even though some comes from our gardens, many of the favorite items still must come from the store. Our local Hy-Vee has turned gardening into an advantage by having a great garden center, assuring we will visit them first for our garden supplies and groceries. As for the good for you trend, I see that as having a subtle… Read more »
wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Are consumers becoming more or less interested in connecting with where their food comes from?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...