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GLAS Special: An overview of Bord Bia’s services for the horticulture industry

Mike Neary, director of Meat and Horticulture Division at Bord Bia; Minister of State Andrew Doyle TD; and Carol Marks, sector manager for Horticulture at Bord Bia, pictured at Bord Bia’s Learning Theatre. Photo: Joe Keogh.

An overview of Bord Bia’s key activities, from Carol Marks, sector manager for Horticulture at Bord Bia.



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18 July 2019

by Julia O’Reilly

Bord Bia implements a range of programmes and activities to support the amenity horticulture sector including consumer and trade promotion, business development, market research, and quality programmes. The following is a report on key activities and a snapshot of key services available to the industry.

Sustainability and biodiversity take centre stage at Bloom 2019

Over 115,000 people, including 20,000 children, attended Bord Bia’s Bloom festival in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, over the June bank holiday weekend.

“We are proud that Bloom continues to evolve and this year’s show so accurately reflected our changing times and the mood of the nation. Important stories and conversations around the key themes of sustainability and biodiversity have taken place across nearly every aspect of the show.

“Our show gardens, postcard gardens and panel discussions highlighted key issues from climate change, environmentally friendly packaging and the importance of physical and mental well-being, to protecting Ireland’s indigenous bee population and the need to safeguard our marine environments.”, said Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia.

In keeping with the festival’s focus on recycling and sustainability, many of the show gardens were re-homed in the following weeks and months. Linda McKeown’s gold medal winning diversity garden went to Enable Ireland’s new Children’s Centre opening in Curraheen, County Cork. The plants from Cheshire Ireland’s garden were replanted at the Cara Cheshire Home in the Phoenix Park, while the garden’s striking red figure sculpture and birch trees were re-homed in the Ardeen Cheshire Home in Shillelagh, County Wicklow.

Following applications from over 50 organisations, St Ita’s Community Hospital in Newcastlewest, Limerick, was chosen as the new home for Dementia Ireland’s garden. The Marie Keating Foundation’s Breath of Life garden was donated to the Cuisle Centre in Portlaoise to provide a relaxing outdoor space for people diagnosed with cancer and their families.

Meanwhile, the plants from the Bee Positive Garden were replanted in Fingal County Council parks, while the stone wall made its way back to Bremore Castle, Balbriggin, Co Dublin.

Bloom 2019 was also a hive of activity for business. “Now in its 13th year, Bloom provides Bord Bia with an invaluable opportunity to engage with the public, helping us to build insight and share new ideas while also celebrating and showcasing the best of Ireland’s horticulture, food and drink industry. Bloom has a strong track record of delivering sales and new business for those exhibiting, both here onsite and in the key months following the festival.”, said McCarthy.

Bloom 2019 by numbers 

  • Over 115,000 visitors, including 20,000 children.
  • The judging panel for Bloom 2019 comprised of 14 Irish and international horticultural experts, who awarded more than 100 awards to show garden designers, amateur postcard garden designers, nurseries, and floral artists.
  • This year’s show featured 22 show gardens, 14 postcard gardens, and 28 nursery displays; a record number of 11 gold medals were awarded to show garden designers.
  • More than 20,000 visitors left plants in the Plant Crèche to be cared for while they enjoyed the festival.
  • Over 10,000 Irish plants were sold in the newly established Quality Mark Plant Village.
  • Almost 20,000 people availed of Bord Bia’s free shuttle bus to and from Bloom.
  • Three quarters of a tonne of strawberries were eaten in Bord Bia’s “7 a day” rainbow polytunnel and the Food Dudes Kids Zone.
  • A total of 4,000 people worked onsite over the five days, including 200 Bord Bia volunteers.

Amplifying the horticulture content at Bloom

In keeping with our Horticulture Marketing Strategy 2019 – 2021, and the Bloom strategy to place horticulture at the core of Bloom, the horticulture team undertook a number of initiatives this year to build and amplify the horticulture content at the show. The objective was to activate additional and stronger horticulture (and industry linked) content and activity across the show site.

This is Horticulture by Bord Bia

The central feature in the Nursery/Floral Pavilion, This is Horticulture, was designed to educate and inform visitors about the Irish horticulture industry, its existence, scale, variety of activity, and how it contributes nationally from a commercial perspective.

It showcased both ornamental and edible production in a variety of ways, with fresh produce and plant displays, infographics highlighting production values and a selection of growers, along with plasma screens running “Meet the Grower” videos.

The main focus of the display was large screen made up of 42 individual half metre screens which wrapped around the viewer in a specially designed viewing gallery.  This provided a virtual tour of Irish horticultural production via six specially commissioned 360-degree videos bringing the viewer through giant glasshouses full of flowers, strawberry, and tomato production, a field vegetable production site, and apple orchards from spring flowering to harvest-time full of fruit.

The experience was designed to deliver key messages about the importance and value of the horticultural industry to Ireland and gave growers the opportunity to spend time at the feature and chat to visitors.

The Quality Mark Plant Village

The re-named Quality Mark Plant Village was moved to a more high-profile location at the front of the Bloom Bistro and close to the entrance to the show gardens, to give quality-assured Irish plants greater exposure and to highlight that The Bord Bia Quality Mark means that the plants have been produced to the highest Bord Bia-quality standards and grown in Ireland.

The formal layout and new shelving with the prominent Bord Bia Quality Mark branding reflected a stronger professional profile for local plants from a variety of quality assured growers and was run in conjunction with the Kildare Growers and Newlands Garden Centre and supported by Bord Bia. A number of new plant varieties were showcased, with one being mentioned on Lyric FM and consequently sold out during the show.

Dates for 2020

Plans and preparations are already well underway for Bloom 2020, with many show gardens, sponsors and designers already signed up. Don’t miss your opportunity to be part of the event, contact us to express your interest. Bloom 2020 will take place from Thursday, May 28th to Monday, June 1st 2020.

Market research and information

Bord Bia carries out a measure of the gardening market every two years. The Value of the Garden Market study 2018 was undertaken by IPSOSMRBI, see an overview of the results below. This complements recent reports held by Bord Bia, including the review of the labour status in the horticulture industry as a whole, which was carried out in 2016 and the B&A study on gardening completed in 2017 by RedC. All reports are published on the Bord Bia website or can be studied by visiting the Library at The Thinking House by appointment.

The Thinking House @ Bord Bia

GroMór ambassadors Gary Graham and Karen Koster with some very important GroMór helpers. Photo: Bord Bia.

The hub of Bord Bia’s Insight and Innovation services, The Thinking House, is the repository of all research, and is where insight and innovation activities are centred.

Ireland’s food, drink, and horticulture industry can enjoy unrestricted access to the latest global trends, research, consumer insights, and industry innovations.

The creative space includes a Trends Zone to highlight the latest innovations from around the world and a Packaging and Branding gallery to promote best in class design and to showcase Bord Bia’s recent work with Irish producers.

The Living Room and its adjacent viewing room, allows Bord Bia to conduct qualitative focus and discussion groups, while the library presents invaluable access to a wide range of databases and reports that would heretofore have been financially prohibitive to source for many small to medium-sized companies working in the industry.

Bord Bia’s Insight and Innovation services are open to all Irish producers, and a number of nurseries have utilised its brand development programme over recent years.

Visit the Bord Bia stand today to get a flavour of what Thinking House has on offer.

The Bord Bia Value of the Garden Market Study 2018

Bord Bia has engaged Ipsos MRBI to track consumer activity and spend in the amenity market every two years since 2001. The objective of the survey is to provide Bord Bia with a tool to measure and track consumer spend, channel of purchase and motivation for purchase across a range of amenity products.

Reporting context

The average age of the first-time home buyer is 34 – up from 29 in 2006.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) (Inflation) averaged 0.27% in 2018. Retail sales, excluding the motor trade, were up 3.5% in the past year.

Since the research began in 2001, the CPI for goods has decreased, while the price of services has increased significantly.  The prices of utilities and local charges has almost doubled over this time.

2018 was a challenging year weather-wise, from snow hampering the kick off of the gardening season, to prolonged heat and drought during peak season.

Market summary

The amenity market is showing signs of growth since the last measure in 2016, particularly in the areas of indoor potted plants and fresh cut flowers, foliage, and wreaths. The overall market has grown by 9% in value – €795m – while purchase occasions have also increased by 8% to 18.4 million.

Trees and hedges, as well as herbaceous plants, recorded increases in spend compared with 2016, however hanging baskets and pre-planted containers have made no further inroads this measure, either in terms of occasions or value. Nonetheless, purchasing occasions are at their highest level since measurement began in 2001.

The long term trend for convenient planting solutions is further strengthened by a resurgence in popularity for indoor potted plants, which are demonstrating the greatest level of growth in both purchasing occasions and spend of all products measured.

The market for garden products is showing further growth since 2016.  There are positive movements in most products.

Consumer spend on landscaping services is also on the increase, with garden makeovers or overhauls appearing to be favoured over paying for a garden designer to draw up plans only for a garden.

Independent garden centres remain the single most important channel for amenity products: a quarter of all consumer spend, and almost half of spend on outdoor flowers and plants, is routed through garden centres.

Spend on amenity products through discounters has overtaken traditional supermarkets, due to a much greater increase in purchasing occasions over the past seven years.

The findings of the study will be presented to industry at GLAS today in the Bord Bia Learning Theatre.

GroMór 2019 Gardening Promotion

Building on the success of the 2018 campaign, in 2019 GroMór has continued to grow the market for gardening in Ireland. The main target audience is mature gardeners, but the aim has also been to engage with 25-35 year olds, and 35-50 year olds, to help the long-term growth of the market.

There has been a big emphasis on video, with “how to” tips distributed to the nearly 20,000 likes on Facebook, and a focus on getting people into garden centres and buying Irish plants. A link between the high traffic Bloom website and the GroMór website was created, to send people to the GroMór site. There is simple GroMór gardening advice, and links back to the GroMór site for more advice and details about the campaign. Check out the website at or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Participation by nurseries in this year’s campaign had the additional benefit of supporting the other gardening promotions that Bord Bia are running. Bord Bia substantially increased the funding for plants in the new season of Supergarden, ensuring that plants were a bigger focus of the gardens, as well as drawing attention to the Quality Mark on plants.

There was also a large investment in the plant village at Bloom, which was re-christened the Quality Mark Plant village, and which also promoted GroMór. Finally, there was participation by GroMór garden centres on the gardening stage. Bloom is an ideal platform to promote gardening and Irish plants, and this initiative will be refined and built on in the coming years.

Metrics for 2019 have all been comfortably exceeded, with more than a month still to run.

Our other services to the horticulture industry

Marketing assistance for horticulture companies

Bord Bia provides financial support to Irish food, drink, and horticulture companies through our Marketing Assistance and Step Change programmes. Both initiatives can enhance the competitiveness of your business by helping you take the next step in your growth progression.  The call for applications takes place in December of each year. Details will be available on the Bord Bia website closer to the time. Contact us should you wish to receive an alert email directly.

Business and trade development

Bord Bia continues to provide amenity businesses support through trade promotion events and business development activities which include supplier, product and brand development activities. Support is provided in the export market through mentoring and the facilitation of buyer introductions.

Amenity export programme

Bord Bia supports amenity sector exporters through the Amenity Export Programme. The Programme which is underpinned through mentoring support, is targeted at amenity horticulture business owners, who wish to build on existing export sales or enter export markets for the first time.

The value of amenity exports increased to €18.5m in 2018, with hardy nursery stock the biggest sector at €7.3m, followed by Christmas trees and foliage at €4.8m respectively and bulbs and flowers at €1.6m.

With the advent of Brexit nursery stock producers in Ireland are potentially faced with many challenges and opportunities. Producers can in the meantime work on improving their business processes and improve their competency in marketing and sales, enabling them to be ready for future challenges. Some trials of the effects of LEAN productivity systems are being carried out to investigate their potential for the sector.

We are here to help

Contact Carol Marks or Michal Slawski via email on: or For access to reports and studies contact our library and information on:

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