Flower start-ups cut out red roses for Valentine's Day

New York: A budding group of American flower-delivery start-ups filling orders for Valentine's Day this week were shunning the most popular way to say "I love you": red roses.

You won't find traditional cellophane-wrapped buds, teddy bears or heart-shaped chocolate boxes anywhere in the product selection of companies including Farmgirl Flowers, BloomThat, BloomNation and The Bouqs. Those products, and the online models that so often deliver them have become stale, say this new crop of entrepreneurs.

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Instead, the companies are tucking plants like decorative kale, ranunculus and eucalyptus into arrangements as they attempt to tone down the Hallmark holiday cheese factor with hipper designs, locally sourced stems and gift box add-ons like gourmet gummy candies and red-tinted lip balm.

Valentine's Day marks the biggest day of the year for the flower industry around the world – nearly $US2 billion is expected to be spent this year on flowers in the United States alone, according to the National Retail Federation. To be sure, with their romantic undertones, roses remain the most popular way to celebrate the date. And some of the start-ups still offer one or two red rose options.

But even flowers can go through trendy phases, and while roses may be classic, for some customers they're no longer cool.

Enter kale in your Valentine's Day bouquet or tulips and unusual greenery instead of roses. More traditional bouquets like red roses paired with baby's breath feel "antiquated and old", says Matt Schwab, co-founder and president of BloomThat, which was launched in 2013 from San Francisco.


Farmgirl Flowers, which started in San Francisco in 2010, takes an even more extreme approach. The company's flowers are 100 per cent sourced from the US, bouquets come wrapped in recycled burlap coffee sacks and the company creates only one arrangement for customers to order each day, cutting down significantly on the waste the flower industry typically accumulates by overbuying in order to potentially fulfil hundreds of different designs, says the company's founder, Christina Stembel.

Data show Stembel and others have tapped into the desires of customers looking for an innovative way to send flowers. Farmgirl has grown at least 250 per cent every year since it started and is expected to hit $US10 million in sales this year.

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