BIG NEWS in Manatee Fresh Media
Just in time to celebrate the start of summer, Manatee Fresh recently welcomed its first-ever ocean-shipped delivery of nearly 500,000 blooms imported directly from Mexico. Tuesday, June 29 was an exciting day for the direct importer, national distributor, and grower of ethically sourced, sustainably grown cut flowers, potted plants and greenery - as Manatee Fresh spent two and a half years working on this project. This was a long wait, which would eventually establish a way to ocean-ship these fragile stems in order to yield a smaller, greener carbon footprint while establishing a distribution hub on the West Coast of Florida.
A clear demonstration of its “Choices That Matter” ethos, the Manatee County-based (Florida) company had a vision to bring ethically sourced flowers to the port in a more sustainable way and become a major distributor to supermarkets and retailers nationwide. Shipping by ocean freighter represents the first time this highly perishable cargo has made the trip from Mexico to the West Coast of Florida, and is a greener option than its competitor - air freight.
“This was a journey two and a half years in the making and the first of many to come,” said Robert McLaughlin, Founder/CEO of Manatee Fresh. “As a sustainability-focused company, we believe it’s our responsibility to play a role in helping improve how we operate within this industry, and the impact we make beyond it. Shipping by sea into Port Manatee creates jobs here and abroad, supports greener commerce along the supply chain, and takes a positive step in a more earth-friendly mode of delivery. Together, all of this enhances our ability to provide our customers with the freshest, most responsibility sourced cut flowers.”
In an industry that traditionally relies upon air freight (which pollutes at an average rate of 20-30x more than ships) and trucking (10x greater carbon footprint than ships), McLaughlin discovered that innovating more sustainable practices in flower importation would be a challenging endeavor. Despite grower relationships dating back nearly 40 years, he had to start from scratch and educate himself on an entirely new method. He would need to learn ocean freighting, including its different ports and shipping routes, as well as develop relationships with growers who were willing to get onboard with him and his new ideas. Robert also would have to find customers to buy an entire refrigerated container load of flowers.
“We partnered with growers, national and local retailers to establish this route and distribution channel. Since we are the only importer in Central Florida and the Gulf Coast from Mexico and South America that produces bouquets we are able to service medium and large retailers that care about supporting local business, our local port and care about the environmental impact of their flowers,” said McLaughlin.
The 500,000 arriving blooms include: mixed roses, 4-foot tall Asiatic and Oriental lilies, gerbera daisies, iris, eucalyptus, and other mixed bouquets. All are bound for wholesalers and retailers nationwide including throughout Florida. Locally, shoppers can find these products in Detwiler’s Farm Markets, Sue Ellen’s Florist in Sarasota and Ms. Scarlett’s Flowers in Bradenton, among 200 other locations.
“Port Manatee looks forward to playing a continuing role in the green supply chain of Manatee Fresh, benefiting from the cross-gulf proximity of Mexico’s flower growers to the global gateway of Southwest and Central Florida,” - Port Manatee’s executive director, Carlos Buqueras.
Carlos goes on further to share that, “This blossoming partnership with locally based Manatee Fresh further broadens our diverse port operations, which generate more than $3.9 billion in annual economic impacts while providing for more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs.”
Born from the ashes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manatee Fresh was created to be the nation’s best global floral importer, convert 100% of purchasing to farm direct, and to grow its own crops in Palmetto, Florida. In just one year, the company has not only achieved these goals; it has commenced growing beds of sunflowers and expanded its premium offerings, now including the finest quality 4-foot tall Asiatic and Oriental lilies. Some of the best hydrangea, double stock, roses from the equator, a large collection of orchids from Thailand, and Dutch and Italian flowers are currently being added to Manatee Fresh offerings. The company has also created Manatee Rewards, an effective rewards program that has already issued rebates in the thousands to its loyal retail customers. With offices in Palmetto and Orlando, FL, as well as sales and procurement in New York, Bogota and Medellin, Colombia, Manatee Fresh is proud to supply the freshest, ethically and sustainably sourced flowers, at great prices to wholesalers and retailers all across the USA.
- Emily McLaughlin