Proof Is in the Packaging for The Fruit Co.

While quality is key for Hood River, OR-based The Fruit Co., the three-year-old fresh-fruit marketer believes that another element contributed to its sales growth last year: a change in the company’s packaging.

In November, The Fruit Co., which doubled its sales in 2002 to nearly $5 million, began packing its fruit gifts in boxes adorned with watercolor paintings of fruit. “A lot of our marketing — catalogs, Web — has shown the boxes,” says cofounder/president/CEO Scott Webster. “We’ve had customers call us and say they’re framing the lids with the paintings on them.” The Fruit Co. has boxes with two different paintings and plans to introduce others this year.

The pretty boxes didn’t spur all of The Fruit Co.’s growth, however. The company, which did half of its sales over the phone and half online, more than doubled its holiday catalog circulation, from 18,000 to 37,000. But Webster is slow to credit the circulation hike with much of the sales increase, as many of the 2002 holiday books arrived in customers’ homes later than expected because the service bureau failed to print postal barcodes on them. Webster can’t specify how late the catalogs arrived, but he says local postal reps told him that it can take “anywhere from three days to three months for catalogs without barcodes to arrive in homes.” In comparison, barcoded catalogs often arrive within a week.

Webster also attributes some of The Fruit Co.’s growth to the company’s policy of sending two-piece samplers of fruit to customers placing orders as gifts. “Any customer who wants to try our fruit — and we tell them this on the phone — can try it out for free,” Webster says. “All they pay is the $5.95 shipping and handling for three-day air via FedEx. We know when they see our fine art boxes and taste it, they’ll reorder for themselves.”

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