STORES SELL FEBRUARY WITH ORGANIC ROSES

AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market readied itself for Valentine's Day weekend with a generous stock of organic roses in all its divisions for the first time, with intentions to push sales all winter.Other natural foods chains and some independents also prepped themselves with as many organic roses as they could get, sources told SN.Indeed, by mid-week before Valentine's Day, the only supplier of

AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market readied itself for Valentine's Day weekend with a generous stock of organic roses in all its divisions for the first time, with intentions to push sales all winter.

Other natural foods chains and some independents also prepped themselves with as many organic roses as they could get, sources told SN.

Indeed, by mid-week before Valentine's Day, the only supplier of certified organic roses for wide distribution -- Organic Bouquet Inc., Novato, Calif. -- was sold out. That left none for mainstream supermarkets, but that will change, said Gerald Prolman, the company's founder and chief executive officer. He explained that more acreage is being planted as more growers become certified.

Previously, Whole Foods has sold conventionally grown roses in winter, but about a year ago the natural foods supermarket, with 140-plus units, began selling organic ones in its Southern California division with big success, officials there reported.

Additional availability also spurred the chain to make organic flowers available this winter to all divisions, and particularly, to offer organic roses for Valentine's Day.

"This was the first for Valentine's Day. We had good color selection, all from Organic Bouquet. It's definitely a growing category for us," a source at Whole Foods' Southwest distribution center told SN.

"It's a high priority for us. [Organics] greatly enhanced our selection [for Valentine's Day], but we weren't able to get as many as we wanted," said another source from the chain's Northern Pacific division.

Before Organic Bouquet made organics available, Whole Foods and other retailers like Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats Markets, sourced organic flowers only in season, from local growers.

"We get tulips from Organic Bouquet and I get organic flowers from local growers in the summertime, but I needed roses for winter. They've done well for us these last months," said Willa Ruppel, floral manager at a Wild Oats unit in Lakewood, Colo.