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Bobbi Ecker of Florapros recalled seeing the billboards along highways in the Midwest promoting cut flowers. She spoke to a crowd where many wore yellow buttons proclaiming, “I help people express feelings with flowers!” Several in that audience at the 2011 International Floriculture Expo recalled hearing infomercials on research documenting the benefits of having flowers in the home.

After almost 15 years, the Flower Promotion Organization — the group behind the billboards, buttons and infomercials — has decided to make grants to the Floral Marketing Research Fund and the Society of American Florists’ PR Fund to continue its core work on promotion and research. Stan Pohmer, executive director of the FPO and the honoree at the event where Ms. Ecker spoke, made the announcement.

POHMER-crop-twoStan Pohmer“Through the efforts of the FPO, the industry has learned a lot about what drives consumer purchases, the benefits of flowers on people’s lives and lifestyles, and effective ways to deliver our messages,” Augusto Solano, president of Asocolflores, the Association of Colombian Flower Exporters, and co-chairman of the FPO, said in a statement.

“However, we’ve also learned that the cut-flower industry is not yet ready to work collectively toward achieving a sustainable industrywide funding and marketing effort,” he added. “So the FPO board has decided to work through other floral organizations to help expand their marketing and research activities.”

The Floral Marketing Research Fund, an independent nonprofit organization coordinated by the American Floral Endowment, will receive $600,000 to fund activities that benefit the cut flower community-growers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers, and will have a positive impact on all retail channels: mass market/supermarkets, traditional retail florists, Internet retailers and others, Mr. Pohmer told The Produce News in a phone interview.

All FPO-funded research will be available for industry use.

The Society of American Florists fund will receive $300,000 for research and marketing initiatives on cut flowers. The unit has been the recipient of FPO funds that now total almost $1.1 million. FPO grants supported the fund’s Home Ecology projects, a Workplace Study, the Vitamin F project and the Flower Factor initiative.

Anthony Vollering, owner of Sunshine Floral in Carpinteria, CA, and the other co-chairman of the 10-member board, stated that, “Without a continuing revenue stream and an industry commitment to invest in a broad consumer marketing campaign, the FPO board of directors determined that the dispersion of its financial assets to the Floral Marketing Research Fund and the SAF PR Fund made the most sense at this time.”

The FPO will continue to serve as a forum for the U.S. and Colombian cut-flower communities to discuss and promote industry issues and goals, Mr. Pohmer said. Formed in 1999 by Colombian and U.S. cut-flower growers to help increase consumption of cut flowers in the U.S. market, FPO funding came from cut-flower growers in both countries as well as from importers and wholesalers.