Flower company looks to Mother's Day -- and beyond

Mitch Lies/Capital Press Workers at Kendal Floral Supply in Canby, Ore., process up to 6,000 cases of cut flowers a day in preparation for MotherÕs Day. A case consists of two to 15 bouquets of between 10 and 40 stems.

Floriculture rebound predicted as U.S. economy strengthens

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

It was started in 1973 in the back of a van. Twenty years later, the company went international.

Today Kendal Floral is recognized as a top supplier and distributor of cut flowers, with a U.S. work force of 2,000 and three West Coast plants.

Kenneth Baca started Kendal Floral by selling cut greens to local florists out of the back of a van while attending San Diego State University.

"First he expanded to Los Angeles. Then he started doing direct delivery throughout California," said Baca's daughter, AnnaRose Baca, the company's vice president of sales and marketing for the West Coast. "Eventually he started manufacturing bouquets. And then he got into supermarkets."

"He was the first one to introduce consumer bunch programs to supermarkets in California," Baca said.

The company went international in 1994 when Kenneth joined with Herbert Jordan of The Queens Flowers in Colombia. Baca and Jordan created Florexpo and began moving product from farms in Colombia to the Western U.S.

In 2001, Kendal Floral expanded to Monterey, Calif., and Canby, Ore.

The company expanded its Canby facility in 2008. The automated facility now contains 120,000 square feet, including 76,000 square feet that is temperature controlled.

Kendal and Florexpo operate 34 farms in Colombia and partner with growers in California and on the Baja Peninsula to buy flowers. The company also buys flowers from farms in Oregon, Washington and Canada.

Its product line includes bulbs, Gerber daisies, carnations and sunflowers.

Like other flower suppliers, Kendal withstood a drop in sales last year.

In 2008, the wholesale value of floriculture crops was down 2 percent from the previous year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The total wholesale crop value for growers with $10,000 or more in sales was $4.22 billion for 2008, compared with $4.32 billion for 2007. Data for 2009 will be released next month.

Things now are beginning to pick up, Baca said, and the company hopes for a strong Mother's Day.

Mother's Day and Valentine's Day are traditionally the company's two biggest days, Baca said.

"We are anticipating seeing increases over last year," Baca said. "Last year was tough economically for a lot of people."

Baca said he believes the U.S. has substantial market potential for the cut flower industry.

The key to tapping the potential, she said, involves changing the way U.S. consumers purchase flowers.

European shoppers tend to buy flowers as part of their everyday purchases, she said. U.S. consumers tend to buy flowers only on holidays.

"I believe we have a tremendous opportunity to make every-day flower purchases part of our culture," she said.

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