By Lisa Zwack, Head of Sustainability at The Kroger Co.
For more than three decades, Kroger’s master floral designers have crafted the Garland of Roses, the prize given to the winning thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby. Every year, hundreds of people gather at the Kroger store in Middletown, Kentucky, USA, to watch the creation of one of the world’s most-recognized floral arrangements.
The Derby garland is 122 inches long by 22 inches wide, weighs 40 pounds and holds more than 400 Rainforest Alliance Certified™ “Freedom Roses.” Each rose is hand-selected and individually sewn into the garland backing with its own hidden vial of water to keep it fresh. It takes nearly a dozen master florists and many volunteers more than seven hours to create the famous garland.
But before the Freedom Roses make their way to Kentucky, Kroger—the world’s largest florist—partners with leading suppliers and Rainforest Alliance Certified flower farms. Passion Growers, a Kroger supplier, produces the “Freedom” roses featured in the Derby garland on its farm in Bogota, Colombia. The roses are Rainforest Alliance Certified, complying with the strict requirements of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard, based on Passion Growers’ ongoing commitment to sustainable practices and uplifting work culture.
By partnering with farms that are Rainforest Alliance Certified, Kroger ensures the flowers used in the Garland of Roses – and sold in our stores – are free of dangerous agrochemicals; grown where soils, waterways and wildlife habitat are protected; and where farm workers enjoy decent housing, access to medical care and schools for children.
In 2014, Kroger was in search of a certified partner who would support our company’s sustainability priorities. We wanted to guarantee that we were working with suppliers who were doing the right thing for their land and their people, and producing safe products. We knew what the Rainforest Alliance Certification Green Frog seal stands for – and data showed that it resonated with our customers, too. By working with Rainforest Alliance Certified floral sourcing groups, Kroger has been able to make a direct, positive impact for farming communities in Colombia, as well as help reduce water consumption and pesticide use, and adopt climate-friendly agriculture practices.
Today, Kroger is one of the largest consumer outreach partners of Rainforest Alliance, especially when it comes to customer recognition of Rainforest Alliance’s Green Frog seal on flowers in our Family of Stores. Last year, Kroger’s Our Brands, the company’s private-label portfolio, launched the new Bloom Haus floral line, which carries the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, ensuring the product is grown on farms that meet social and environmental standards designed to protect forests, soil, water, wildlife, and the communities and people who live and work in these forests and farms.
In 2017, Kroger announced its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social impact plan, which outlines bold sustainability goals we aim to achieve by 2025, including becoming a zero food waste company. Our partnership with the Rainforest Alliance supports our company’s sustainability goals by ensuring we are using natural resources responsibly – not only for our garland roses, but for flowers our customers purchase in our stores every day.
In our “Journey of the Roses” video, you can enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the garland – from a Rainforest Alliance Certified grower in Bogota, Colombia, all the way to the Winner’s Circle at Churchill Downs – that highlights the passion and humanity embedded along the way. Kroger is proud to partner with leading suppliers and Rainforest Alliance Certified flower farms to create the Garland of Roses each year in celebration of “the greatest two minutes in sports.”