‘Winning Jasmine is no great beauty’

Jasminum sambac – photo: Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

Jasminum sambac – photo: Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

Earlier this year the Canadian Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) already published an article about the research aimed at ethnocultural potted plants and flowers which resulted in the introduction of Jasminum sambac to the Canadian growers. Jasmine and also lotus are exotic blooms that are common to a part of the world from which a large number of new Canadians come [read more]. In The Innovation Report 2017-2018 Vineland describes in detail the lengthy selection process prior to this introduction.
More than 700 Asian Canadian consumers involved
That selection process involved online focus groups of new Canadians who identified over 30 varieties of plants they were interested in purchasing. Results were whittled down by surveying more than 700 Asian Canadian consumers to determine which of the 30 frontrunners held the greatest appeal. Jasminum sambac, often referred to as Arabian jasmine, was the top candidate, one that consumers could easily purchase in many areas back home but not in Canada.
Once it was identified, Vineland worked with consumer focus groups and conducted a follow-up survey to find out which jasmine cultivar they preferred, what shape the plants should have and even how they perceived the plant’s personality to assist with future marketing efforts.
‘Fire in the eyes’
“There was a fire in their eyes. They were so excited to talk about these plants,” says Vineland researcher Alexandra Grygorczyk. She is a research scientist at Vineland and project lead. “Many of the Asian participants knew so much about them. Admittedly, the winner, Arabian jasmine, is no great beauty. It has small, simple white flowers and abundant foliage. But what it lacks in appearance it makes up for in smell and significance. It’s a common fixture at Hindu weddings, Hindu and Buddhist prayer offerings and other auspicious celebrations. The main attractant is aroma.” Grygorczyk explains how this flower is embedded in many Asian cultures. It has religious, spiritual and cultural significance in many regions. Back home jasmine is everywhere. “Participants talked about how the smell reminded them of home. It’s very nostalgic.”
Very lucrative
Introducing ‘ethnocultural potted plants and flowers’ is considered by Vineland as very lucrative. South Asian Canadians living in the Greater Toronto Area spend 60 million Canadian dollars (about 47,5 million US dollars) on cut flowers and potted plants every year. Producing potted jasmine in Canada provides a new opportunity for Ontario’s greenhouse flower growers who have lost cut flower market share to imports. Grygorczyk: “Our growers can compete within the potted plant market more effectively since countries exporting to Canada have a difficult time getting their potted plants across the border.”
Perfect crop scheduling
Jasmine also fills a void for greenhouses that operate below capacity during the summer. Not only is it a slow time for sales, it’s often too hot for plants to thrive under glass at that time of year. The timing is therefore perfect. “It gives growers something to fill their greenhouses without competing with their other crops,” Grygorczyk concludes.