New technologies make dry-packed flowers more cost effective for supermarket floral!

By Jay Winnerman for THE PRODUCE NEWS (April 2016)

A supermarket floral director not only needs to choose which flowers to purchase for their floral departments – variety, here cultivar and color – but he/she also must choose the best shipping method. Today’s standard options are shipping flowers dry-packed, remedy wet-packed, or a hybrid of both.

Currently, 88 percent of all cut flowers enter the United States through Miami International Airport — with Los Angeles International Airport a distant second — after their journey from Colombia, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Mexico, Thailand and other countries. All of these imported flowers arrive previously processed in their homelands by their growers and dry-packed into shipping cartons.

Up to this point, controlling temperature was a rolling variable depending upon the grower, how the flowers were transported to the departure airport, and how they were loaded onto the plane. However, once the flowers arrive in Miami, very strict temperature control and procedures take over and flowers are stored between 34F and 38F degrees, unless the flower is a tropical. This is true for flowers that will eventually be re-shipped in dry-pack and also those that will be re-worked and shipped in wet-pack buckets.

There are several expense variables that come into play when the flowers are converted in Miami from dry-packed to wet-packed. First, the flowers are unpacked from their original shipping cartons, placed in a bucket with a flower food solution, and then placed into a plastic box liner and a new corrugated box. The original cartons are now waste and must be compacted and moved to recycling centers or landfills, adding to labor costs. Product that is shipped dry-packed eliminates all of these additional steps and added costs.

There is also a 22 percent premium cost to shipping flowers wet-packed. Strictly by the numbers, for $1 million of wet-packed floral product you receive, you are paying $220,000 more than if you received the same volume of dry-packed product.

Additionally, due to standard pallet configuration, there is a three-fold increase in the number of stems that can be shipped dry-packed versus wet-packed in the same amount of space. And dry-pack shipping saves valuable cubes on trucks and in flower storage at both distribution centers and store levels, because wet-pack requires three times the space.
Finally, shipping dry-pack reduces flower damage during transportation, and assures that your flower box will arrive right-side up, with the flowers not standing on their heads.
Once a flower is re-cut and re-hydrated, the senescence process begins to accelerate. In dry-pack, the stems are re-cut and the flowers hydrated at the store level – this is normally four to six days later than product that is shipped wet-pack. So, one can safely state that additional vase life is being gained and the customers’ enjoyment of their floral purchase is being improved.

One of the disadvantages of shipping dry-packed has always been processing flowers at store level, with the additional time needed and labor costs. Fortunately, the industry is responding to this problem with the introduction of products like the StemPro Cutter.
The StemPro Cutter cuts off ¾-inch stem length on 132 bunches of carnations in 12 minutes, or 125 bunches of 25-stem roses in 18 minutes in a safe and clean manner. The
secret behind the StemPro Cutter is that it is air powered (almost like a nail gun used in construction) – it gives the flowers a quick, clean cut. The other secret is that after every use, as the blade is returned to position, the blade is automatically cleaned with Floralife® DCD Solution; hence, giving your flowers a clean and sanitized cut each and every time.
The StemPro Cutter saves labor dollars due to the automated built-in efficiency of cutting flowers, and employee satisfaction and safety, due to not manually cutting flowers with a guillotine cutter. Plus, it doesn’t spread bacteria or crush flower stems.

There are many advantages to utilizing a dry-pack program in your supermarket floral department – it is more environmentally friendly, it reduces the need for valuable storage space, it dramatically reduces shipping costs, there is an immediate 22 percent cost-of-goods savings, and it extends flower life. All of these factors bring value to your customers.
For more information, go to www.stempro.com.
Jay Winnerman is director of sales at StemPro Systems Ltd. in Appleton, WI.