Creating Flower Culture in Saudi Arabia

Staff
14 Min Read

In Saudi Arabia, the flower industry is mainly organized either to cater to high-end individuals, weddings, and other events, or people find their flowers at very basic flower shops. Or the high-end luxury, or the very low-end. You cannot find many well-stocked flower shops in the kingdom. The ones you do find, are the top of the bill.

Most normal flower shops are very small, filled with artificial flowers, and a small fridge with a few bunches of chrysants, roses, and some fillers. Most people hardly ever buy fresh flowers in Saudi Arabia. Well, that’s about to change. This is the story of a burgeoning transformation in the Kingdom’s flower industry.

Creating Flower Culture in Saudi Arabia

Envisioned by Massimo Quaranta of the esteemed Sharbatly fruit distribution legacy, a future vision is seeded in the heart of Saudi Arabia. Massimo Quaranta, after buying some expensive and very low-quality flowers understood immediately there’s a big opportunity to introduce high-quality, affordable fresh flowers available to all.

In Saudi Arabia, there is a general unfamiliarity with fresh flowers. The majority of residents, like Massimo, have encountered only the overpriced, low-quality offerings available in standard shops, and there is widespread uncertainty about how to properly maintain these flowers.  He believes that, with just a bit of education, fresh flowers could become a routine element in the daily lives of many within the country.

 

A basic flower bunch in Saudi Arabia.

 

But to transform this vision into reality, more than seeds must be sown; a ‘flower culture’ must be cultivated in a land where it has yet to take root. Bringing flower culture to a whole country seems challenging. To get this, it’s key to know some Saudi history, especially the recent changes where the country has become more open to the outside world, and women have gained more freedom.

Changes in Saudi Arabia

In the last 3-4 years, Saudi Arabia has enacted a series of progressive reforms. The Kingdom has relaxed some of its stringent social norms, notably granting women the right to drive in 2018 and travel without a male guardian’s consent. These moves are part of the broader Vision 2030 initiative aimed at modernizing the Saudi economy and reducing its oil dependence. The country has also opened its doors to tourism, issuing tourist visas and developing entertainment sectors, including reopening cinemas and hosting international events. The push towards digitization has accelerated, with significant investments in tech and infrastructure intended to foster a diversified, innovative economy. Internationally, Saudi Arabia continues to redefine its geopolitical stance, balancing traditional alliances and regional leadership aspirations. These changes signify a pivot towards a more open and dynamic society within the context of Saudi cultural and political frameworks.

 

Flory Launch event

 

The Visionaire – Massimo Quaranta

Massimo Quaranta (35), an Italian expatriate with over a decade of life in Saudi Arabia, witnesses the growth of a broader market and the advantages of operating at scale. His vision is to flood the Saudi market with a vast array of fresh flowers. Given the Kingdom’s expansive size—roughly a fifth of the United States—and a population of 30 million, distributing these flowers poses a significant logistical hurdle, a puzzle he claims to have already pieced together. The introduction of a novel e-commerce platform will revolutionize the floral industry, ensuring a steady supply not just to florists, event planners, and retail chains, but also directly to consumers, empowering them to engage in do-it-yourself floral arrangements.

 

Massimo Quaranta
Left: Massimo Quaranta

 

This new venture is called ‘Flory’. Massimo shares that Flory emerged from the Sharbatly Club, a digital marketplace for fruits and vegetables that recently began to include fresh flowers in its offerings. Despite the logistical challenges—since fruit emits ethylene gas that can harm flowers—both products share a shelf-life sensitivity and are frequently purchased together. Flory addresses this by packaging them separately yet delivering them concurrently to the customer.

Massimo Quaranta explains:

“The Sharbatly Club mainly sells fruits and vegetables. We’ve got a solid system that allows us to deliver anywhere in Saudi Arabia fast. We’re the biggest supplier around. Adding flowers made sense because we already had the delivery part figured out. When we started offering flowers, they quickly became a hit. Even though they’re just a small part of what we sell, most of our customer feedback is about the flowers. Seeing this demand grow showed us there was a big chance to do more with flowers.”

 

Flory Website
Flory Website.

 

The Opportunity for Flowers in Saudi Arabia is Flory

Flory stands as a digital marketplace tailored to cater to both individual consumers and professionals such as florists, event planners, and floral designers. Thanks to its large-scale procurement, it sources blooms directly from Kenya and partners with SQ Flora, a Dutch exporting firm, to tap into a worldwide variety of fresh flowers. This strategic approach creates numerous efficiencies that are set to revolutionize the floral industry in Saudi Arabia.

Massimo Quaranta continues:

“Because we have the cool chain already in place, and optimized our only ‘problem’ is on how to access a market, which is non-existent. Now it is time to tell everyone in the Kingdom that fresh high-quality flowers are accessible. For a very good price.”

 

Massimo Quaranta at Flory Packhouse
Massimo Quaranta at Flory Packhouse

 

The primary obstacle in Saudi Arabia’s flower market is the widespread absence of essential floral education. Insights emerged from the recent Flory launch event in Jeddah, which was attended by a mix of individuals including floral designers, flower shop owners, as well as consuls, ambassadors, and members of influential Saudi families. The event served a dual purpose: to introduce this new venture and to stimulate internal momentum. Additionally, it was a chance to gather valuable feedback. Numerous attendees echoed Quaranta’s belief in the untapped market for premium fresh flowers and underscored the critical need for consumer education to ensure flowers are cared for correctly, thereby preventing disappointing experiences.

Quality Expectations

In Saudi Arabia, numerous people who have purchased fresh flowers have been left with a poor impression, as the majority of flower bouquets available are subpar by Western standards. There are only a handful of high-end shops that cater to the luxury segment of the market and meet these quality expectations.

Abdulaziz Alnoman, for many the best floral designer in the country, is very excited about the change Flory can bring:

“It is important, also for us, that the people in Saudi Arabia are going to see flowers in a better way than before. I am also excited about the idea Flory brings a wider assortment to the country, so there will be more to choose from”.

 

Regine Motmans from Thursd with Abdulaziz Alnoman at Flory Launch event
On the left, Regine Motmans from Thursd with Abdulaziz Alnoman, on the right, drinks based on flowers were served at the launch event of Flory.

 

The true test in making this venture successful isn’t just about providing high-quality flowers—it’s also crucial to educate the customers. This was the predominant piece of feedback received at the launch event. To fully appreciate flowers, consumers need to understand the correct care techniques. In addition to teaching care methods, there’s also room to introduce innovative design ideas and advice on combining different flower varieties and colors. Clearly, there’s significant groundwork to be laid in this area.

Quaranta:

“Buying fresh flowers, keeping them fresh, and selling them quickly to retain their qualities is something we can guarantee. That is the condition for success. But it’s just one side of the coin. To be successful in Saudi we must bring a new understanding of fresh flowers, and that is where creating flower culture comes to mind. I am therefore very happy to have worked together closely with a team from Thursd to organize the launch event, to get as much out of it as possible. Not only the event itself but also on how to develop this new flower culture”.

Flory and Thursd Creating a Floral Meetup Spot

Thursd’s team played a pivotal role in facilitating connections between Quaranta and numerous breeders and growers, coordinating the delivery of fresh flowers, as well as curating the floral arrangements for display at the launch event. Their efforts resulted in a stunning exhibition of over 500 different types of flowers at the Sharbatly House, showcasing a variety never before seen in Saudi Arabia. In addition, Thursd offered guidance on articulating the transformative vision of Flory for the Kingdom, providing practical strategies for implementation and other innovative suggestions.

Arnold Wittkamp, founder of Thursd, who also attended the launch event:

“I’m thrilled about Flory and what it means for the people of Saudi Arabia. Supported by the foundation of Sharbatly’s fruits and vegetables, this venture represents a unique chance to foster a new appreciation for flowers, beginning with ‘the magic of the flower’. I believe we’re at the cusp of cultivating a distinct floral heritage in the kingdom. It’s about bringing individuals closer to the wonders of nature, discussing the benefits of flowers for well-being, and enhancing not just the aesthetics of our living spaces but also boosting mood and health. This aspect truly excites me.”

 

Sheikh Abdul Rahman Hassan Sharbatly at Flory Event
Sheikh Abdul Rahman Hassan Sharbatly at Flory Event

 

Basma Beydoun, lead designer at Sumi Florals explains that this is the way to move forward with flowers in the Kingdom:

“The way forward is to have everyone in Saudi Arabia get involved with flowers. Not only as gifts, or at parties and events, but also for their homes. To make this happen, it is all about educating people. Also, all of us working at the high end of the market will benefit from a better understanding of what flowers can bring, and how to treat and use them. I am sure about it.”

Quaranta continues:

“Through effective communication and the right products, I am confident we can impart fundamental flower care knowledge to people and demonstrate the joy and enchantment that flowers add to life. Many don’t even know the basics, such as using flower food, cleaning the stems, avoiding drafts, and keeping blooms away from fruit. By including informative leaflets with our deliveries, creating YouTube tutorials, and conducting in-person workshops, I am optimistic that we can not only establish Flory within the Saudi Arabian community but also build a profitable business. Beyond that, we aim to showcase the beauty and longevity of fresh flowers and the joy they can bring into people’s lives.”

 

About Flory:

Flory is an online platform, set to transform the floral landscape by making fresh, vibrant flowers accessible to all, fostering a new era where flowers are not just seen but truly experienced.

 

Flory

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