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How to Capture Your Share of the Edibles Market

by Janeen Wright, Greenhouse Grower Magazine

The One Earth Edibles herb and vegetable line appeals to consumers because of it is 100% organic. Its tag line “Good for the Plant, Naturally Good for You” also resonates well.

Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, PA, went looking for a brand to launch its organic program after receiving certification in 2008. The company wanted a brand that set itself apart from others in a crowded grower market with big players. Peace Tree Farm created the all-inclusive One Earth brand to include all its plants, such as One Earth Flowers and One Earth Foliage, but over time market research revealed that the One Earth Edibles brand stuck with consumers the most.

Managers made the decision to disband the other categories and launch the Garden Geek Collection for the foliage and flowering plants.

Soon the company was marketing One Earth Edibles to locally owned garden centers in the greater Philadelphia area and regions of New York City, eventually branching out to CSA (community supported agriculture) farms, greenhouse growers, and retailers across the country. Today it continues to market to these groups and has branched out in to gourmet food channels like Kimberton Whole Foods and Wegmans.

The One Earth Edibles brand represents healthy gardens, healthy living, and happy families through USDA Certified Organic growing practices and varieties. It includes recyclable packaging made with 98% post-consumer materials and includes tried-and-true garden performers, as well as new additions every year to keep up with trends in cooking and evolving cultures.

“At the consumer level, the connection between the Peace Tree Farm and the One Earth Edibles brand is pretty strong ─ the two go hand-in-hand and many consumers consider them as one in the same,” says Marketing Manager Stephanie Whitehouse-Barlow. “The tag line ‘Good for the Planet, Naturally Good for You’ resonates well with consumers.”

Whitehouse-Barlow says the Peace Tree Farm brand often draws in retailers and growers as they become familiar with the company culture and the way it produces and sells plants. More growers are looking for a USDA Certified Organic young plant supplier. That seal of approval on Peace Tree Farm’s products shows it has taken the time to go through the certification process, record keeping, and annual inspections to get Certified Organic. Once these customers are familiar with Peace Tree Farm itself, the company introduces them to its three major brands ─  The Garden Geek Collection, Lavender Phenomenal, and One Earth Edibles.

With any new brand, the initial push to gain momentum in the market can be a challenge.

Whitehouse-Barlow says it is important to keep in mind your product offerings, suppliers, distributors, pricing, and sales and marketing strategies when planning to launch a new brand.

“One should think of these elements in terms of the entire supply chain from seed to consumer,” she says. “If one link is missing or incomplete, it can lead to poor execution, stagnant sales growth, or worst of all, a negative brand image.”

The way a grower chooses to differentiate its brand also has an impact in its success. One Earth Edibles has the distinction of including unique — some might even say hot — products in its collection. Many are the upshot of paying close attention to current edibles trends and responding to customers’ needs.

In 2011, Peace Tree Farm partnered with Vegetalis to include its line of miniature eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes, which were a textbook fit for container gardening. It was the perfect timing, as the small space gardening trend was just gaining traction in the Philadelphia area.

Another line came out of customer appeals for more challenging plants to grow and ethnic edibles such as Lemon Grass, Asian greens, and culantro. The Gourmet Edibles line, new for 2016, was born out of these requests and includes cardamom, coffee, culantro, figs, ginger, hops, lemon grass, Okinawa spinach, turmeric, and wasabi.

Peace Tree Farm’s customers have been asking it for years to grow super-hot peppers. The company obliged in 2016 with varieties that are at the top of the Scoville charts, including ‘Bhut Jolokia’/’Ghost Pepper,’ ‘Trinidad Scorpion,’ and ‘Carolina Reaper,’ the hottest pepper in the world.

It paid to listen. Whitehouse-Barlow says pre-book sales for Super Hot Peppers surpassed original production plans, twice.

Peace Tree Farm will look to expand its Super Hot Peppers and Gourmet Edibles product lines in 2017, with increased marketing through social media and at the broker/grower level. Right now, it offers the One Earth edibles line through all its brokers as liners/starter plants. New for this year, the company began offering its potted herbs and vegetables through ePlantSource. Peace Tree has already had success selling directly to its own retail customers, as well as through McHutchison, and its Vaughn’s Horticulture division. Whitehouse-Barlow says ePlantSource’s unique online ordering system was the logical next step in how the company offered its plants to potential customers, as online shopping has grown exponentially in the last few years.

Developing a brand of edibles is not a get-rich-quick growth strategy, Whitehouse-Barlow warns, saying that it should be part of the company’s overall long-term marketing strategy and may require a company-wide change in mindset culture.

“Lots of growers are coming out with their own branded line of herbs and vegetables because the edibles trend is still growing strong,” she says. “In order to create a brand that truly stands out from the crowd, stay true to what you believe in as a company. Be genuine and authentic in how you grow and how you promote your brand. Consumers will gladly support and show loyalty to brands they can believe in.”