AIR CARGO QUARTERLY - Business “blossoming” for USA Bouquet Co.

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Air Cargo News  

By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTTwenty-five years ago, Colombian native Edgar Lozano was earning college expense money driving a refrigerated van to Miami area florists delivering flowers he imported from South America in small shipments.
Today, Lozano presides over one of the largest US bouquet operations, The USA Bouquet Co., which brings hundreds of millions of blooms a year to consumers through a host of the nation’s top retailers.
Throughout a quarter-century in the flower business, Lozano has focused on logistics aimed at preserving the freshness of his delicate product while remaining attentive to specific market demands.
“We’ve got to move the product as quickly as possible,” said Lozano, who now is gearing up for the industry’s No. 1 volume event – Mother’s Day.
Lozano noted that while Valentine’s Day is the flower industry’s leading moneymaker, it trails Mother’s Day in number of blooms sold. That means moms get less-expensive flowers than do sweethearts, a fact that Lozano said is, “very much so, unfortunately.”
At peak times, as many as five cargo aircraft per day come into Miami International Airport filled with flowers for USA Bouquet. Gemini Air Cargo brings flowers such as roses, carnations and chrysanthemums in from the airport in Bogota, Colombia, while Gemini is joined by Tampa Air Cargo in the route to MIA from the Medellin airport, which, like other major origin airports, has a dedicated USA Bouquet facility.
The Lan Cargo unit of Lan Chile and Arrow Cargo fly product to MIA from Quito and Guayaquil in Ecuador, while KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and American Airlines bring in European blooms, including tulips and lilies. African-grown flowers, including sweetheart roses, arrive via KLM’s Amsterdam connections and Lufthansa German Airlines’ Frankfurt connections. Sometimes, product moves on passenger flights, such as a direct Delta Air Lines flight from Bogota to Atlanta.
Most of the blooms make the 5-mile trip from MIA by refrigerated truck to USA Bouquet’s 124,000-square-foot, temperature-controlled facility in the Doral warehouse district immediately West of the Miami Airport. Processing takes place at the Doral location and at similar, but smaller, USA Bouquet facilities in suburbs of Atlanta, Chicago and New York.
Throughout the process, the flowers undergo a series of quality control inspections, beginning with those by certified agronomists at farms of origin. At MIA, all incoming product is x-rayed by US Department of Homeland Security authorities, either by entire pallets or on a depalletized box-by-box basis.
“Flowers have always been scrutinized because of drugs,” Lozano said, “so, when DHS came along, it helped us. We were good and ready to go.”
“Product visibility in the supply chain”
The fresh-cut flowers arrive in “dry pack,” without water. Treated water at 38 degrees is added to guard against premature opening while keeping the blooms fresh, according to Lozano. The trip to customer distribution centers, or directly to stores in some cases, is handled by contracted trucking firms or USA Bouquet’s wholly-owned trucking subsidiary, Consolidated Fresh Solutions. USA Bouquet also uses express delivery firms such as FedEx and DHL to rush product into hubs.
“We process the product as close as we can to the customers,” Lozano explained.
Each step along the bouquets’ way is monitored with tracking technology that entails scanning bar codes at every location. USA Bouquet also has introduced radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology on a test basis, and Lozano believes RFID will become the standard within five years, once its affordability becomes commensurate with the relative low value of flowers compared with items such as consumer electronics.
“The customer needs real-time product visibility,” Lozano said. “The name of the game for us is product visibility in the supply chain.”
For Lozano’s firm, such vi

Paul Scott Abbott's avatar

American Journal of Transportation

More on Paul Scott Abbott
For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.