Behind 160 years since setting up shop, is the story of resilience, innovation, partnerships and zeal that has defined the DNA of Royal Van Zanten, a Holland breeder that has now turned its focus to growing its global tentacles and increasing its product portfolio.
As one of the largest breeders of cut flowers, Statice and Limonium, Royal Van Zanten attributes its success to perfecting its supply chain, investing in innovative breeding models and cultivating partnerships.
“The fact that we have been in existence for 160 years tells a lot about how we adopt to situations, how we improve and innovate and how we are always on the lookout for new ways of doing business which is the core business of our breeding company. We look for sustainable relationships with our customers. We are looking at our business models, not only in the processes but also in our strategy, what are we doing and for who are we doing it. Passion is an important value that lives in the DNA of our company,” said Rick Kroon, the Commercial Director at the company.
In order to make its products competitive, the breeder has been exploring innovative ways of getting these products to the customers by working on quality, pricing and model. Part of this include producing and supplying plants locally therefore saving customers the hustle of importing them from Holland, the main breeding center, with the costs and regulations that come with it. This has ensured the plants can be accessed cheaply and the quality is high.
Kenya being one of the largest floriculture markets globally has been a keen focus for the breeder which has seen it set shop in the country. In the production site, Royal Van Zanten carries out breeding trials in order to gain knowledge about how these varieties react to local conditions.
“We are also looking at cutting the prohibitively high freight charges associated with transporting the plants. As a breeding company, our clients need to earn money with our products. We want to do so by making it easier for them to buy the products and simplifying the supply chain,” said Leon de Mooij, the Area Export Manager. The company has also established its foothold in Columbia, Holland, Brazil, Japan and USA.
Strategy that is defining the DNA of company
At the heart of the new business model was a strategy that the company came up with in 2021 to guide operations. The strategy set to identify which continents and countries will be key in the future of the flower industry. This would guide the company in its focus. “For example, there is a lot happening in Columbia, Kenya and Holland in terms of breeders working together in breeding technologies and then each breeding company using the technologies for their own programs. Such dynamics have been key in informing where we need to take our business,” added Rick.
Market dynamics and how they have shaped business
Ricky adds that in an industry that continues to evolve and guided by global dynamics, communication and cooperation are becoming more important. He cites the COVID-19 pandemic when the company valued the power of communication with clients who were jittery and unsure of placing orders as the industry stared at uncertainty. “You have to look for innovative ways to overcome crisis with your client. We explored the question of how together we would solve the crisis because If you do not plant and then the markets recuperate and you do not have flowers, then you are out of business. One of our greatest strengths is that we are flexible and are able to act quickly to adapt to changes and circumstances,” he added.
Sea freight and the Russian-Ukraine conflict
On Kenya embracing sea freight to transport its flowers, the breeder noted that this was timely and that as the industry continues to realign itself with global happenings, players must be prepared to come up with sustainable solutions. To respond to the new development, the company purchased a container to carry out testing at the same level as its customers were doing. This would allow it to give the customers information and feedback about the varieties that are ideal for sea freight.
“It is inevitable that Kenya had to move to sea freight. Its greatest competitors like Columbia and some countries in Europe are already doing it. Pricewise it is more competitive and it has proven itself as a more sustainable solution. However, for certain crops there is no recipe for keeping them fresh in the container which poses a challenge with sea transport. Again, there are no direct routes from Kenya to Europe so the industry must move with the big container companies to make this happen,” noted Leon.
On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the breeder noted that although this had impacted many markets in terms of high freight charges and depressed markets, the flower industry had weathered previous calamities arguing that there has been traditionally a universal need of flowers. The breeder is of the opinion that these happenings should embolden the industry players to speak in one voice in asking more for their products pricewise. “In order to stay in business, we need to ask for a fair price for our products as breeders, growers and retailers. Large retailers have realized that flowers are now an essential part of our lives. We should collectively advocate for that. To invest in new varieties, we have to work like ten years ahead and this has a bearing on cost,” noted Rick.
As Royal Van Zanten looks to implement its strategy, it main focus is on more crops and markets by enhancing the basis in the crops that it has. This, by constantly looking for new crops that fit in the company’s propagating model which involves tissue culture and cuttings.
The company is also focusing on fortifying its base in one large crop and maintaining market leadership in flagship crops like Alstroemeria
“Varieties that growers are demanding are for more specific needs for example those that are able to withstand the impacts of climate change. That requires new breeding techniques. This is what we call data-driven breeding. That we are breeding from what the markets want. In the end, we are able to have varieties that have longer vase life, easily transportable, grown with lesser chemicals and water,” enthuses Leon.