The hidden cold chain behind Valentine’s Day roses

The average journey of a Valentine’s rose, from harvesting in South America to the point of sale in the US, is 10-12 days during which the role of refrigeration is essential.

About 60% of American men were expected to buy flowers on February 14, St Valentine's Day, representing an expenditure of about USD 2 billion.1,2

High volume, perishable products and long transportation routes means that the supply chain must be working smoothly to get the fresh flowers into the customers’ hands at the right time.

Most of the flowers sold in the US come from abroad. California is the main domestic flower producer, but it only accounts for about 12% of the flowers sold. The rest of the flowers primarily come from South America (80%), especially Colombia and Ecuador.3 Shipping starts weeks before the holiday and the best flowers arrive early. The average journey of a Valentine’s rose from the fields of South America to the hands of a loved one is 10-12 days3:

  • On day 1, after the flowers are cut in the field, they are pre-cooled at 2°C to make the flower dormant and prevent it from blooming.

  • On day 2, the flowers are taken from the farm to the airport, then flown to the US. The Miami Airport is the central hub for all floral imports. In 2014, US Customs and Border Patrol inspected 801 million cut flower stems during the Valentine’s Day period (January 1 to February 14).

  • On day 3, the flowers are stored again at 2°C in warehouses. Bouquets are assembled at this time.

  • On day 4, the initial distribution starts: refrigerated trucks transport the flowers to destinations across the country. Supermarkets and online retailers constitute 75% of the floral market; local florists make up the remaining 25%.

  • Days 5-7 correspond to in-transit. With the right cold chain management, flowers stay dormant throughout the trip, prolonging their shelf life.

  • Days 7-11 correspond to the forward distribution: the roses arrive at a forward distribution point. From here, they will be taken to the appropriate retailer distribution center and put into circulation for distribution to the stores and independent locations. The flowers are still chilled between 2 and 7°C.

  • On day 10-12, the flowers are made available for customers to purchase.

1 FRAZIER, Eric. The floral supply chain: cold competitive, consolidating. Available following this link.

2 ABRAMS KAPLAN, Deborah. The hidden supply chain behind Valentine's Day flowers. Available following this link.

3 ACHTER, Kyle. The logistics of delivering fresh roses in time for Valentine's Day. Available following this link.