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Potting Mix – ‘Soils aint Soils’

Peter Morrison

Richgro Garden Products, WA

Are your sales of bagged mixes growing for 2009/2010? Sales of bagged mixes continue to grow modestly across all varieties of mixes; the spring season was particularly buoyant with sales tending to slow down since Christmas this being a reflection of the general slow down in retail sales for the period.

Are you seeing a clear move towards better quality or is price still a big factor? There is no clear trend toward the more expensive/higher quality mixes although these still remain the favourite mixes for keen gardeners with the new or novice gardeners tending to buy on price still.

Grow Your Own (GYO) is clearly booming. Have you seen any definite trends with Potting Mix in this area? Yes grow your own is booming and I think this has assisted with the overall increase in sales. There have been numerous products such as ‘organic composts’ and specific products such as Herb and Vegetable mixes brought to market by manufacturers to meet this GYO trend. The jury is still out on the long term success of these products as in reality some of these products are just ‘rebadged’ existing products that have been pitched at the GYO segment. I believe that consumers are smart enough to realise that existing products will do the same job as these new products and in some cases at half the price.

Mike Donsen,

Grow Better Garden Products, VIC

Our bagged sales have grown in the order of 7%. I can only go by our sales that indicate that quality is important as we only manufacture top-end mixes. However the cheap end mixes are still sold in enormous volume via supermarkets, Bunnings etc. There needs to be a buyer-beware campaign outlining all the reasons why you shouldn’t buy a bag without Australian Standards on it. The industry knows why but consumers don’t.

The grow your own market is huge and we recognise this .Our Organic Potting Mix is has grown by 6% and we will be launching a Tomato , Herb and Vegie mix for spring.

Ian Macey, Business Manager,

Amgrow NSW.

Bagged Potting Media sales continue to be steady. We are seeing the areas of Organic to be the biggest growth area with the GYO area of our business to be strong. General market is still split towards entry level potting media and premium potting media. The consumer today is savvier and the message about the ticks on potting mix is getting through. There is a general trend for consumers to be looking for these ticks and understanding that they are buying a quality product that will perform as required. Areas of our business such as Amgrow Organix Potting Mix have continued to grow in sales. The launch of our new Amgrow Tomato , Herb & Vegie Potting Mix, BFA certified Organic, last year was a great success and is looking to continue to grow in sales in 2010. There is a growing trend to mixes that have a specific GYO message and also the Certified Organic message continues to grow. All Amgrow Organix Potting Mixes, Compost and Nutriblend 5 are Certified Organic by BFA. This sector of our business continues to be strong.

John Johnston

Marketing Manager

Scotts Australia

Our Market Research indicates approximately 3% industry volume growth for year ended April 2010. This reflects a slight decline in the number of consumers buying potting mix offset by consumers buying more bags per annum. Value for Money is still the number one consumer driver which will only be exacerbated by the declining consumer confidence in recent months.

We don’t have products specifically positioned as Grow Your Own, however it appears that mixes targeted at tomatoes, herbs, fruit, vegetables etc are doing well.

Jason Searle

J.C & A.T Searle, QLD

Sales in potting mixes for Searles have continued to grow rapidly in most states. Vic and NSW are stand out performers, whilst other states are growing well. Mainstream lines are doing well in chain retailers and independent retailers but independent retailers are doing particularly well with specific mixes.

Quality has dominated price for many years now and even in the downturn there was little evidence of consumers sacrificing quality. If consumers were looking to spend less they tended to buy less quantity but maintain quality. As consumers hunger for instant gratification from products, quality will continue to dominate over lower quality, lower price.

Actually I am seeing GYO tend starting to flatten off a little now. Sales are still very good but not increasing as much as 2009. Since the start of 2010 and in the areas which have received good rainfall, we are seeing a large resurgence to traditional exotic plants and potted colour. This is also starting to be reflected in sales of mixes and fertilisers which target this segment. E.g. Azalea & Camellia mixes, Rose mixes and other mixes specifically suited to boosting potted colour.

Adrian Cugnetto

Brand Manager, Debco

Sales continue to grow rapidly in the retail channel for the Debco brand. Continuous research and development at product level and at consumer level have given a clear direction of consumer needs in the potting media category and at Debco we have managed to utilise this in full to grow the overall portfolio.

Consumers are educating themselves more with the importance of additives in potting mixes overall. Premium standards, controlled release fertilisers and wetting agents are becoming more important in the consumers decision making process. Debco continues to offer the highest quality in their mixes and research shows the rapid growth achieved clearly defines that whilst price will always remain a factor to consumers, paying a premium to get the best results is becoming a growing trend.

Research conducted has definitely shown that growing your own vegetables and herbs is a major growing trend within the category. Organic certification plays a major role in the consumer decision making process as the GFC and interest rate rises are making consumers look for brands they can trust and know will give them results. Major factors for this growth include the declining quality of produce in major retail stores and the increasing prices within those retail channels. Consumers are also educating themselves and realising GYO organically gives great results in terms of taste and can often be a cheaper alternative to buying them on the weekly grocery shop.

Research also shows us that the GYO segment attracts the first time gardeners, in particular families who want to get their children involved in gardening. If first time growers are successful when initially growing their own, they will continue to grow and get more involved in gardening. This clearly defines the segment as having the largest potential for growth.

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