Constantly updating with innovative lavender breeding

The Florensis Lavandula Lovers concept has now been on the market for three years. From the beginning, it has consisted of four reliable varieties, four best-sellers and recently expanded with two novelties. How does this all come about, and what makes this concept so successful? Corporate Product Manager Mark van der Knaap explains.

“Lavender is our strongest and biggest breeding programme in perennials from cuttings” - Mark van der Knaap

Mark, tell us a little about yourself first. Have you always been Corporate Product Manager at Florensis? 
No, five years ago I started out at Florensis as Trial Coordinator. After just five months I was promoted to Corporate Product Manager of annuals from seed and pot plants. Just over two years ago I was given responsibility for Dianthus and perennials from cuttings, of which lavender is our strongest and biggest breeding programme 

In fact, coming to work for this breeder and propagator was quite a logical step for me as I come from a family of growersa family business, just like Florensis. 

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What exactly are you responsible for as Corporate Product Manager? 
Basically, I look at the market demand so that we can work out how best to meet it. 

And which team do you do that with? 
The entire production chain, really. I first work with the Sales department to ascertain demand in the market. Then we sit down with our breeders in Quedlinburg (DE). That is a complete team of breeders who carry out innovative breeding with our in-house breeding programme in order to meet our breeding targets. Then a selection is made and the Supply Chain department can start planning. Our Florensis Ethiopia farm 
assesses whether they can propagate the new variety well, and our production location in Dinteloord (NL) reports on how rooting is going. We also test whether the sticking robots can stick them properly. In the meantime, the new cuttings are tested by our Trial Coordinators. So, everyone works together.

Is this how the Lavandula Lovers concept was created? 
Yes. Our lavender is highly diverse. It doesn’t matter how the grower cultivates lavender; Florensis has a variety for it. Back in the day we decided to look into how we could promote these strong varieties in the clearest and most straightforward way. We created a positioning tool, and that’s how the whole concept came about. 

“It doesn’t matter how the grower cultivates lavender; Florensis has a variety for it” - Mark van der Knaap

What has made Lavandula Lovers so successful? 
The fact that we control the whole production chain, in combination with good genetics, Florensis Ethiopia’s experience, our breeders and rooting in Dinteloord. It’s very important to make sure every aspect is right from start to finish, and at Florensis it is. This makes us extremely reliable and enables us to supply the customer with exactly what they ordered. 

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So why two novelties? 
The concept was lacking one segment in which we didn’t have a good enough presence in the market: namely, early, first year flowering lavender from cuttings. This was therefore the breeding goal for Quedlinburg. Lavici® Blue is the result of this.

We also needed an even better white lavender that would be easy to produce and would be suitable for all seasons. That’s how White Summer came about.

What makes these novelties special?
Lavici Blue is an early, first year flowering lavender. We have started with Blue, but the plan is to add more varieties to this series.

White Summer is special because of its diversity. It’s extremely winter hardy, it can be grown alongside Essence® and it’s much earlier than our other white lavender. In addition, White Summer can be produced in the winter but also fits into a first year flowering programme.

How do you get a match between customer needs and the product? 
It’s very important for us to keep in touch with the Sales department to find out exactly what our customers need. Not just now but in five years’ time, too. So, we visit customers regularly, talk to them and keep listening to the demand. We base our breeding goals on this so that we can always meet our customers’ needs and keep on updating our range. Lavici is a good example of this. 

“Customers can expect plenty of new introductions in Lavandula Lovers over the next few years. We never stand still” - Mark van der Knaap

What were the biggest steps last year? 
Lavender from cuttings was very strong with Essence Purple, one of the best-sellers in Lavandula Lovers that has been selling in increasing numbers year on year. We are also continuing to innovate. So, customers can expect plenty of new introductions in Lavandula Lovers over the next few years. We never stand still. With our in-house breeding, good delivery reliability and extensive product range, we have something for everyone in Lavandula Lovers.