Last Thursday, Aleia Roses introduced its premium label ‘Aleia’ at the Palacio Neptuno in Madrid. Following its introduction at the Royal FloraHolland Trade Fair in Aalsmeer, the time was ripe to introduce this rose variety in its Spanish homeland. Before an audience of 200 guests CEO Luis Corella explained the steps taken by the company until today, as well as the traits of this A1 quality ‘Red Naomi’ rose.
Aleia is the premium label of Aleia Roses for A1 quality Red Naomi roses with a bud size ranging from 5 to 5.5 cm. This spring, Aleia started marketing its A2 roses under the Reia label. The bud size of this rose variety ranges from 4.5 to 5 cm. According to Henk Lammers, Director of Logistics & Quality, the A1 roses have been cut since June and their share has now reached approximately 60%. “Our goal is for this to be raised to 80%.”
During the past six months, significant steps were taken to improve quality and grading, announced Lammers at the Trade Fair in Aalsmeer. “Proliferation has since been curbed, and the crop is basically stabilising. We no longer have any ‘cauliflowers’ (ed.: heavy buds with tree trunks). We have had to deal with multiple setbacks in the past six months: mildew, damage from the cold weather, and so forth. Still, I believe we came out very well. Additionally, our Bercomex Furora bunching machine is now operating as well as it should. It still needs some fine-tuning, but we have made significant steps since August. We are producing more homogeneous bunches, with the right grading, bud size, ripening stage and colour.”
According to Lammers, the vase life is also perfectly in order: “This was proven by tests conducted at FlowerWatch, Royal FloraHolland and WUR in Bleiswijk. The vase life can reach up to 18 days, with an average of 13 days, following a transport simulation. We also regularly test the products of our fellow growers in the Netherlands and always come in among the top three. We also experienced a month in which our roses did not remain fresh as long, but this is something we have learned from. Vase life is of fundamental importance to us.” The roses are grown under assimilation lighting in winter, but not as intensively as in the Netherlands. Of course, the days are shorter in winter here as well. “As it stands today, we are one class above our fellow growers in the Netherlands. This is apparent from the positive response we received at the Trade Fair. I believe that we will really be able to make the difference in winter”, says Lammers.
With its new label, Aleia Roses is focusing on the premium segment, says CEO Luis Corella. How about the African rose? “We do not consider roses from Africa competition, as we focus on an entirely different segment. We are concentrating on top-notch quality and a long vase life. However, as a grower it is best to be in Europe, where you can make use of Dutch technology and know-how. Additionally, you must have control over the entire chain, to ensure that your product will reach your customer in the best possible condition.” The cultivation site in Soria was chosen with the utmost care, emphasises Corella, particularly because of the climate. The night temperature here never rises above 16 °C, not even in summer. The harvested product is shipped to the office in Aalsmeer by truck – cooled and on water – in approximately 19 hours.
Aside from the vase life, sustainability is another element of crucial importance to the Aleia label. This means: clean, safe and grown with a minimum of chemical crop protection agents and with sustainable energy, even if the fourteen-hectare high-tech rose nursery is still heated with gas. However, negotiations are reaching their final phase with a nearby biomass plant, where all the waste produced by the nursery is processed. It is Aleia’s intention to procure its heat and carbon dioxide from this biomass plant. “We collect and recycle rainwater. Additionally, we take our social responsibility seriously. We work with an organisation for the disabled, for example. It is important to us to create employment opportunities in a region where unemployment is relatively high.” At the Trade Fair Aleia Roses announced that it is now MPS-A certified.
Aleia does not yet have any concrete plans for consumer marketing, although it is the company’s ultimate objective. Corella: “The consumption of roses in Spain is still rather low, and we would like to increase this. We are focusing on the luxury segment and wish to make the product more fashionable. Additionally, we want to reach the point where Spanish consumers ask specifically for Aleia within the next few years. In this respect, we also have a competitive edge on the Netherlands. However, we are now focusing on building up our brands in various commercial channels and delivering consistent quality and uniformity. If there is anything I have learned in the past year it is this: the market sets considerable demands and it costs a lot of time to gain confidence.”
Text: Mario Bentvelsen. Photos: Mario Bentvelsen/Aleia Roses.