Garden retail - Focus on fertilisers

Suppliers are targeting consumers who do not feed plants to help improve the value of the category, Matthew Appleby reports.

Retail: GfK reports that consumers place emphasis on natural chemical products - image: HW
Retail: GfK reports that consumers place emphasis on natural chemical products - image: HW

Some 66 per cent of active ingredients have been lost in the EU over the past 20 years and the "uncertainty about the future of glyphosate, metaldehyde and the focus on neonicotinoids continues", says Bayer Garden. Yet pests and diseases proliferate in gardens, with imported issues such as box tree caterpillars causing problems to Buxus, for instance.

All of which poses issues ahead for the garden centre "ferts and chems" sector. Some may be alleviated should the UK decide to forget EU opposition to neonicotinoids and glyphosate post-Brexit, but with some suppliers operating across Europe there remain many question marks over what actives will be available in the future.

Pheromone trap

Bayer Garden, which has been officially taken over by French firm SBM Developpement and is phasing out the Bayer name, has launched Buxatrap pheromone trap for box tree caterpillars, while Vitax has a new Buxus Feed with nutrients to green up leaf colour and extended nitrogen release to sustain growth.

While natural controls gain much of the publicity, Bayer and Westland say chemical solutions still account for well over 90 per cent of sales. Bayer points out that deltamethrin-based Provado accounts for 41.2 per cent of the insecticide market by value, for example.

It adds that concentrates make for better value and account for 35 per cent of the value of the market and 27 per cent of the volume. Bayer says converting 20 per cent of those who walk away from the ferts and chems fixture would add £5.3m growth to the £61.8m category. Shoppercentric reports that the average walk away rate is 43 per cent.

Bayer also wants to target the 30 per cent of plant owners who do not feed plants by promoting its Baby Bio, Phostrogen and Toprose brands. Nine in 10 prefer to grow in containers and 55 per cent of them feed. Converting 50 per cent of non-feeders would increase category value by £6m. Some 65 per cent of gardeners grow roses but only 47 per cent feed them, Shoppercentric has found. Toprose accounts for 42 per cent of the market.

Bayer adds that clip strips of Baby Bio have increased sales by 130.4 per cent. The brand has 50.1 per cent of the houseplant feed category and 46 per cent of the drip feeder market. Within the market, which recovered after having a tough April thanks to the slow start to spring, GfK figures show Westland liquid plant feeds sales are 40 per cent up. Westland claims 23 per cent of slug control sales through the Growing Success and Eraza brands.

GfK says consumers are also placing more and more emphasis on the use of natural garden chemical products. The percentage of these natural products in the total garden chemical market grew by 7.8 per cent compared with the previous year's period. The strongest growth in sales value was shown in France, with an increase of 16.2 percent, followed by the Netherlands, with sales up 12.1 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Products integrated

Westland has integrated Sinclair products into its range since taking over the company in 2015. Feeds and straights include Planting Magic, among a complete range. It has eight of the top 10 straights, according to GfK, including Growmore, Jack's Magic and New Horizon all-round fertiliser. Resolva, Eraza, Slug Stop, Growing Success and Deadfast brands cover the weed and pest killers sector.

German-owned Neudorff has launched a super-strength seaweed extract one-litre concentrate and 8kg organic CleanLawn fertiliser. Sipcam, which has an Italian parent company, has also entered the market with the Ecofective brand. Decco will exclusively handle all sales to UK garden centres.

The UK company has a team of 11, with Matt Jones heading retail and amenity. He was previously managing director of Doff Portland. The technical team is led by Dr Anne Noble and Bob Hand, who are specialists in plant nutrition and regulated products.

Jones says: "All research shows that British domestic gardeners seek environmentally responsible ways to help them. Ecofective makes the biotechnologies we have developed available to them in attractive and easily usable forms. This is particularly relevant now as an increasing number of pesticides, active ingredients and conventional chemicals are being withdrawn from the worldwide market, often due to environmental and safety concerns.

"We've been encouraged by the response from retailers. I've been attending the Decco trade shows and we are getting a good uptake, including the full range offer which means the retailer buys a case of each SKU (18) to merchandise a 1m bay, and gets the best pricing plus complimentary POS for their shelving. This makes it easier for the consumer to get the message that everything in that metre bay is giving them a greener, safer alternative to the traditional products."

The range includes a non-pesticide Ecofective Rose Defender to control aphids and powdery mildew with an added foliar feed. This is available in one-litre ready- to-use (RTU) format as well as a 100ml concentrate.

Weed Blast has a patented natural formula that gives visible results after one hour. This is available as a one-litre and four-litre RTU. Other products in the Ecofective range include Path & Patio Weed & Moss Killer, a Bug Killer that is used extensively by organic farmers and growers, a non-pesticide Plant Defender and a 100 per cent natural and organic Wonder Feed for tomatoes that is preferred by commercial organic growers.

Specialist range

Meanwhile, Vitax promoted its new specialist feed range at Glee, consisting of Hydrangea Feed with added magnesium and iron, and Buxus Feed with extended nitrogen release. The company has also developed Liquid Ericaceous Feed.

Sales manager Colin Wetherley-Mein says: "We knew the new feed range would capture attention as gardeners are now looking for solutions to specific problems. This year we have gone super-sized with some of our products and the SBK RTU four-litre spray certainly drew attention. SBK has always been a firm favourite but the new high-coverage spray is already in demand for next year."

Also at Glee this autumn, PlantGrow launched to the trade. The fertiliser, made from anaerobic digester waste, is backed by rosarian Richard Beales. Enquiries from France, where some chemicals in garden fertilisers are now banned, were prominent. The PlantGrow patent covers the EU and the USA as well as the UK.

Gel Telescopic Wand wins innovation award

Roundup's latest innovation, the Gel Telescopic Wand, has won its first industry accolade, scooping a new product innovation award in the tools and machinery category at Glee. It allows consumers to tackle weeds without stretching or bending down, extending from 0.3m to 0.6m. Roundup Gel attaches to the wand with a twist and dispenses the weedkiller through the click of a trigger. The wand is compatible with the original Roundup Gel and the newly launched Roundup Tough Gel and Path & Drive Gel.

Exhibitors at Glee in September said Brexit is likely to make it easier to keep using chemicals such as glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) in the UK. Manufacturer Monsanto has collected several reports showing that the chemical does not cause cancer. The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued a report concluding that glyphosate is not likely to cause cancer in humans.

Monsanto business director Gary Philpotts said the conclusion was "not surprising", though he added that it was "helpful". He said decisions such as the recent Swiss parliament backing of glyphosate are "at odds with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)", adding: "The IARC classification of 'probably carcinogenic to humans' is continually referred to by activists opposed to glyphosate renewal in the EU, but the IARC report is an outlier and sits alone against the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence reviewed by regulatory bodies around the globe including the US, New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland.

"It's worth noting that even here in Europe the German risk assessment body BfR and EFSA recommended that the glyphosate licence should be renewed based on a thorough review of all available data. The license renewal was derailed when the member states' representatives ignored the advice of EFSA and BfR."

While some EU governments have proposed restrictions on the sale and use of glyphosate by farmers, municipalities and others, the Swiss parliament has outright rejected a petition to ban glyphosate. A report from the New Zealand Environment Protection Agency concluded that glyphosate is "unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans".

On Scotts-distributed strategic partner brand Roundup, Hill said the product will remain "the strongest brand in the category" even if glyphosate is banned. "It's market leader by a long shot. I don't consider the future of the brand is uncertain, though the future of glyphosate is."

Latest products

Gadgets such as Roundup's Telescopic Gel wand (£21.50), Evergreen Wizz battery-driven fertiliser spreader (£24.99) and Bayer's Buxatrap box tree moth biological control (£29.99) launched at Glee in September. Other top Glee launches in the fertilisers and chemicals sector included:

- Neurdorff Plant Invigorator 750ml RTU (£6.49)

- Resolva Natural Power (£5.99)

- Baby Bio Pour & Feed (£3.99)

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