FlorAmor, half a century of passion for Azaleas

Just three years! That’s how long it took FlorAmor to become the European market leader in the production and marketing of Azaleas. The key to their success? A strong team, a global approach and decades of passion and experience in their DNA. Christoph Stevens and Kris Verhaegen provide an insight into a company that is both young and old at the same time.

One plus one makes three

Saying FlorAmor is a ‘young’ company is relative. FlorAmor is the fruit of the merger between ID’Flor and De Bruyne – Flandresse, two seasoned nurseries with a strong market position. “Both companies did approximately the same thing and our clientele also overlapped to some extent. I would sometimes be leaving a client and find Christoph at the front door,” laughs Kris. “In 2018, we took the logical step of joining forces.

A merger that is certainly bearing fruit today. These days, the company is the European market leader in the production and marketing of Azaleas. “This position is strengthened by the collaboration with the Azaro nursery and ID’Flor (which continued as an independent nursery, ed.). For breeding and R&D, we call on our partner Hortibreed. This allows us to manage the entire chain ourselves, from breeding, production and bringing plants to flower, all the way through to marketing. We have also grown considerably on all these four fronts, precisely because we complement each other so well.”

Cowboy meets scientist 

These kinds of mergers are rarely a bed of roses, or in this case Azaleas. Bringing together two different companies, each with their own culture, creates sparks, admit Kris and Christoph. “ID’Flor was a bit more rational and scientific in its approach, whereas De Bruyne – Flandresse had a higher cowboy content,” says Christoph. “We had to feel our way sometimes for the first few months. And of course that’s only logical, because employees who have been doing the same job for 15 to 20 years suddenly had to adapt. But we all managed to come out of it stronger. The accountant is a little bit more rock-‘n-roll these days, so to speak, and the rock-‘n-roller has learned that he also has to calculate from time to time. (laughs) The result is that everyone now lives and breathes FlorAmor.”

One-stop shop

That makes for a strong and close-knit team, one of their greatest strengths. Kris adds a few more. “We are a one-stop supplier and our primary aim is to take care of our clients in an efficient and cost-effective manner. With a good product, of course, but also with a wide and reliable range. We want to think along with the client and offer a comprehensive response to their demand, with different pot sizes and variants throughout the season. We want to support them in the marketing of our products. With concrete tips, for example, and by anticipating questions that the client will receive from consumers. We are also taking steps towards the end user. With our consumer website, for example, where you will find concrete tips on how to maintain Azaleas, their history, facts and the like. 

What still sets us apart from others is that we serve both smaller garden centres and the day trade, as well as the wholesale trade. We can also handle large campaigns. One example is the annual ‘Kom op tegen Kanker’ (Fight Against Cancer) campaign, for which we prepare hundreds of thousands of plants in the short term.” 

Kom op tegen kanker
Kom op tegen Kanker’ (Fight Against Cancer) campaign

Strong brand

The ‘Kom op tegen Kanker’ campaign is a huge success in Flanders. The Flandresse Azalea brand, a classic and typically Flemish product, is the star of this charity. The other brand marketed by FlorAmor is Hortinno®. The ‘inno’ in this brand name stands for innovation. Breeders are constantly looking for varieties that are more resistant to diseases or varieties that have a longer flowering time and are easier to maintain. A form of sustainability, something that FlorAmor is committed to. 

Going the extra mile in sustainability

“These days, you don’t have a choice,” says Christoph. “Not only does the client expect this from you, so does the government with its stricter standards and regulations. And rightly so, as we are working with nature. We need light, soil and water to produce our plants. Adopting a respectful approach to nature is the least we can do. Although we can make people happy with an Azalea, this has an impact on our environment. It is our duty to keep this impact as low as possible.” Christoph lists various efforts that the company is making. “It basically revolves around breeding and seeking out varieties that are more resistant, so that less crop protection is required. We also look for and breed varieties that need less water. In addition, our packaging is made of consumer waste, waste from the blue PMD bins (for plastic bottles, metal containers and drinks cartons) and can also be placed in these bins after use. The labels on our pots are made of old newspapers. And another thing: we collect as much rainwater as we can and reuse it…” 

“The requirements are becoming increasingly stringent. Not only in terms of production, but also how you deal with the people in your company. Our ambition is always to go the extra mile on top of the specified standards. Our efforts are demonstrated by certificates such as MPS-A+, MPS-GAP, GLOBAL-GAP and MPS SQ and Product Proof.

Response to consumer demand

“As far as we are concerned, sustainability and innovation are also found in the application,” adds Kris. “The new variety Azajoy from Hortinno® is a good example of this. Azajoy actually grew out of a consumer demand. In the Hortinno® mailbox, Hortibreed were frequently asked the same question by consumers, namely whether the plant could be planted outdoors after flowering? Well, Azajoy is the answer. This Azalea flowers as a houseplant in spring and then survives perfectly well in the garden. Plant outdoors after indoor flowering is therefore clearly stated on the label. Zero waste, in other words. The advantage of having a short line of communication with consumers is that we know what’s going on.”

Hortinno Azajoy
Hortinno Azajoy

Shared values with Floréac

These short lines are also an asset for clients like Floréac. Kris clarifies: “The link with Floréac has been around for a long time. After all, the company ID’Flor has long been part of the Floré group. These days, Floréac is a top client. Firstly, because they are enormously open to conveying our story to the client and, by extension, to the entire market. They’re in the best position to know the client’s needs and feed this information back to us. We strive to achieve a long-term partnership with a win-win for everyone in the chain – for them, for their clients and for us. In addition, we completely identify with their three most important values: innovation, high-performance supply chain and dynamic open communication. Another plus: their clientele is closely aligned with our market positioning.”

Azalea & the post-coronavirus interior: a match made in heaven

If you can believe trend gurus, colour is making a comeback. Good news for Azaleas. Christoph and Kris agree. “That’s right, green will stay but will be given a coloured accent. Think of a green leaf with red veins or a green plant with flowers, for example. And the Azalea is completely in line with this trend. We are also seeing more and more interest among young people. The Azalea has always had the image of a typical Flemish houseplant, loved by an older audience in particular. However, these days young people are also increasingly interested in local, authentic products. A trend that we wish to respond to with our Azaleas.”

“Now that people are still working from home, they are also paying more attention to colour and a green and healthy indoor climate*.”

“Today, the garden or terrace is often an extension of the interior too. There used to be a plastic table and chairs and that was it. Nowadays, everyone relaxes on loungers or has fun in outdoor kitchens. A garden azalea adds that little extra touch, right?” (he laughs)

our webshop