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Research into the commercial flower growing sector in Scotland


This short review and scoping report was commissioned by the Scottish Enterprise (SE) Rural Team to provide an initial assessment of the opportunity for growth in the commercial flower growing sector in Scotland. It also considers how to capitalise on the opportunities for growth identified through the research. The specific objectives of the research were to: review existing flower and foliage market reports from a variety of sources; identify and consult with suitable stakeholders who could provide in-depth knowledge of the sector and any opportunities and issues that might exist in the Scottish context; conduct 1-2-1 consultations with 8-10 stakeholders; and draw conclusions and provide a report of clear recommendations for a way forward for SE.


The methodology consisted of both desk research of existing sources where they existed, and individual interviews with a range of companies operating in the sector in Scotland.


The study found that the commercial cut flower and foliage sector in Scotland has the opportunity to grow and add to the local and regional economies the businesses operate in, and at national level achieve sustainable import substitution and growth at a sector level. Specific opportunities identified included: the increasing market demand for locally sourced flowers and foliage of higher quality than is currently available in the market – and the increasing prices of Dutch flowers in comparison; the genuine growing consumer demand for locally sourced produce, and the reaction against the environmental costs of the flower imports currently dominating the Scottish and UK market; the growing popularity of Scottish cut flower varieties; the opportunity to source quantities of foliage from the forest estate in Scotland; and the obvious linkages into the complementary drivers of the growth of the Scottish wedding market, as well as the focus and support which could be channelled through women into enterprise, specifically in rural areas. A number of significant challenges to the growth of the sector were also identified. The logistics challenge of transporting fresh flowers from across the different and often quite remote areas to the market/fulfilment opportunity was highlighted as perhaps the most important. Also highlighted as important, was the desire and ambition of the sector businesses themselves to significantly grow in scale and in terms of markets. It was suggested that a cooperative model, in particular a marketing model, might help overcome some of these concerns. Other challenges included a lack of market and business orientation in the sector, and the need to educate the end consumer and intermediary on why to buy Scottish. Given the challenges inherent in the current sector, the growth of the sector is likely to be in the medium to longer term.


A number of recommendations were made in terms of how SE should move forward with the sector. These included: early engagement with Flowers from the Farm (identified as the most important and relevant industry body to the Scottish market); working with the sector to fully assess the supply chain in Scotland for commercial cut flowers and foliage, and develop and promote more market specific training courses; undertaking further baseline research at a Scottish level; detailed market research and communication of the opportunities open to the sector and how these can be best realised at a sector and company level, and a coordinated marketing and educational programme to the key target markets for the industry, in particular the retail and event florist market; working with the industry in taking the learning from other sectors, in particular the food and drink sector in Scotland, in seeking to identify appropriate marketing and promotional channels; and to look at how the sector can better access relevant business planning and financial templates to bring a more business-like approach to the sector. SE then commissioned Rural Matters LLP in February 2018 to facilitate a workshop with Scottish flower growers to explore and feedback on the report’s content and recommendations. The specific objectives of the workshop were to: provide a short presentation summarising the research undertaken; facilitate a discussion on the report recommendations; and discuss and agree any next steps for the sector. All participants agreed the workshop had been useful as a first step in exploring and clarifying the findings of the research report, and discussing where the opportunities for the sector best lie. Many of the growers are now moving into their busy period so it was agreed that the development thinking around the sector should continue and be industry led, but recognise the time constraints for many of the growers over the coming months.

Author Rural Matters LLP
Published Year 2018
Report Type Research
  • Business infrastructure
    Supporting key sectors
  • Equity
    Rural Development