What can we learn as entrepreneurs from their struggles and success?
Today we’re looking at a case study of Fruitful Office. A company that delivers fresh fruit to more than 2,500 workplaces in the UK every week, and delivers to over double that amount in offices across Ireland, Germany, Holland and Belgium.
Sixteen years after the company was founded, Fruitful Office has become a well-known name in the office fruit marketplace. So many business start-ups fail, but Fruitful Office survived the economic crisis that erupted shortly after its foundation and continues to go from strength to strength today even amid the global uncertainty of the pandemic. What I want to discuss is how they’ve succeeded, why are they still here in a marketplace that has become progressively cut throat?
Meticulous control measures
The Fruitful Office has flourished because of its meticulous quality control. Before dawn every morning, its fruit buying team hand-selects the best quality fruit from the fruit markets, ensuring it is of the highest quality, tastes great and is at the “breaking point of ripeness”.
At the Fruitful packhouse, the fruit is prepared to make it convenient for the workplace, for example, the bananas and grapes are separated into individual portions. Each item is quality checked before it is placed in the basket. The company even takes care of supposedly minor issues such as removing the stickers from each piece of fruit.
Whilst in transit, the fruit is handled with supreme care to protect it from bruising and other damage.
Effectively identifying the niche and customer base
Company founders Vasco de Castro and Daniel Ernst previously worked as an investment banker and an accountant respectively. After becoming frustrated with the quality of some of the fruit being delivered to their office, they left their careers to start Fruitful Office.
One of the most daring moves made by the pair in the early days was to offer free fruit baskets to 25 companies. However, the strategy paid off, and through word-of-mouth, many more orders followed. By June 2008, the company already had 200 corporate customers.
Customers of Fruitful Office receive a basket packed with a variety of different fruits, all designed to improve the health and wellbeing of staff.
Contributing to more than just the bottom line
Fruitful Office is a commercial enterprise, but it takes its social and ethical responsibilities very seriously. Wanting office workers to eat healthily, and to eat fruit in preference to sugary snacks, is of course in itself of great benefit to society in general.
99% of each basket is eco-friendly, and the company says it is “working on the other 1%”. The wicker baskets are re-used for future deliveries, the paper lining of the basket and the basket tag is made of recycled paper, and the transparent wrapping is biodegradable and protects the fruit.
Most of the fruit delivered by Fruitful Office is sourced from the UK and Western Europe, thus supporting local producers, and reducing the carbon emissions that would result from long-distance transportation.
Fruitful Office is also involved in a number of charitable projects, the most notable of which is the Planting Fruit Trees in Africa initiative. For every fruit basket it delivers to an office, the company promises to plant one tree in Malawi, in partnership with charity RIPPLE Africa. In doing so, Fruitful Office is seeking to provide fruit for Malawian families, provide them with firewood, and tackle deforestation.
They were also a sponsor of the 2017 British Transplant Games, which were held in North Lanarkshire in Scotland and more recently they have been delivering donated fruit to frontline NHS staff.
This type of environmental and social conscience goes a long way to helping develop goodwill to the brand and fosters a growing loyalty from long term customers who can see the sustained good they are trying to bring to the world as more than just a short term publicity stunt, something more companies could learn from.