Flowers and food go hand-in-hand as traditional pleasure items. What would Valentine’s be without a bouquet and chocolate? What about summer, without lemonade and sunflowers? Enough poetic pondering of the question, and you come up with a fundamental inquiry, the mother of all food and flower combinations:
What if you could eat your bouquet?
Tariq Farid stumbled upon this concept in his years working as a florist. After a fair amount of work and experimentation, he produced the first Edible Arrangements bouquet. It was an immediate hit.
Since then, eating your bouquet has become a signature activity across the nation. Edible Arrangements serves customers celebratory fruit designed to look like an elaborate floral bouquet. They sculpt mangos, strawberries, oranges, grapes, bananas, and other fruit to resemble a floral arrangement. Product popularity has exploded at kids’ birthday parties, anniversaries, on Mother’s Day, and in corporate boardrooms.
Business Pundit talked to Farid to find out more about Edible Arrangements’ background, advertising strategy, and how it copes with rising prices.
BP: How did you come up with the idea for edible fruit arrangements?
My background is in the floral industry—I’ve been in some kind of an arrangement mode since the age of 16. We saw the concept of fruit being used in different places by people in the floral industry for about 13 years. It made sense for us to explore the concept.
We started as a flower shop, then spent about a year experimenting with different fruit mixes, making up designs and everything. Then, in 1999, we launched it as a concept.
It was a hit right from the beginning. We started franchising a few years later, back in 2002-2003, and in 2004 it just took off. All that hard work since 1999 kind of paid off.
All in all, the success was due to many many years’ experience in the floral industry, knowing what kind of gift and price range is right, knowing how to connect the product to what the consumer needs, and knowing how to serve a niche audience.
BP: Where does most of your business come from?
In the beginning, I could probably narrow it down to a segment. We’re all over the map now.
The consumer we tend to tailor all our advertising to and go after is probably the decisionmaker in the house, women between 25-50. We also just launched a corporate line, which fills a void that we’ve had for a little while. Last year we launched our kids’ line, which is very popular, with arrangements featuring SpongeBob and Hello Kitty, and some of the Disney characters.
BP: I noticed you use a lot of TV ads for your product. Are they effective in attracting customers?
We have about 800 stores right now, and 700-some-odd stores in the US—it’s the perfect time to go on TV. This is the first year that it went on national TV. All our franchisees helped make the decision. The timing couldn’t have been better: We’ve done incredibly with our TV campaign.
Edible Arrangements is a very visual product. When you describe it on the phone or in print, sometimes people just can’t connect. They think of the arrangement, they think of the edible, but there are just so many associations between those two words that people go all over the place.
Sometimes people also think the arrangements are made of flowers. I remember at the beginning, when I was doing deliveries, I’d be standing in that elevator in a hospital or in an office. People would look at the arrangement and think it was made of flowers, then take a double-take and say, “What is that?”
I’d say fruit, these are strawberries, and their eyes would light up. They’d say “Oh my God! I thought it was flowers!”
When people get a good look at an arrangement, the simplicity of it connects quickly. TV has been phenomenal for us for that reason. I remember at the beginning we were doing print ads, and people were saying, why do you spend so much money on color print ads? Why not just newspaper? It’s because the ad had to show the product, people had to see it.
So right now we have a combination of national print ads in most of the major magazines, TV ads, and our website, and all three have worked phenomenally.
BP: What are you doing to adapt to high food and transportation costs?
We have not had any negative effect from rising food and transport prices. I credit the TV campaign and the simplicity of the product. Even when I launched our concept initially in 1999, everyone was saying that the economic situation at the time was going to affect us.
In my experience, no matter how difficult a time you’re in, you still want to send gifts. There’s always going to be love in the air, there are always going to be birthdays, anniversaries, there are always going to be reasons why people need to send an arrangement. Our product adds great value to that sending, it has the effect of flowers and also something that can be consumed, so it meets those two product lines, gift-giving and also food.
At the same time, we will address with our franchisees how to control costs.
Most of our stores are community-based stores, which helps our franchisees adjust to changes in demand. Our franchising is decentralized, so that there’s not necessarily a single company that is sitting at a headquarters somewhere, passing down instructions. These are franchisees that are living in those neighborhoods, living in the communities, and they tend to be a lot more adaptive to peoples’ needs than, say, a consumer chain store, because you don’t have managers that may be looking towards the bottom line but not towards the local consumer.
BP: A lot of people are talking about sustainable food right now, sourcing food locally and organically, is that an option you guys offer?
We source all our fruit from local vendors. We don’t have a national distribution center from which food is flown in; we always participate with our local fruit vendor. We have not really faced the issue of organics yet, because our arrangements are all natural in the first place. We don’t put any additives in, no sugars or preservatives or anything.
We are very careful to know how much sugar each product contains; if it’s chocolate, who makes the chocolate, does it have any kinds of preservatives, is there something that will be counter to our objective of just being all natural.
We’ll start to look at other alternatives as they catch on or as our base grows.
BP: Any parting comments?
We want to make it easy for the consumer to reach out to us, either through our call center or website. We want to take the burden off and take care of logistics, so that the consumer can just have the “Wow” factor.
If the “Wow” factor includes drooling during interviews, count me in. I will never again interview a chocolate-dipped fruit company on an empty stomach.
Seriously, now: Edible Arrangements proves that beauty, taste and health have lasting appeal. The product speaks for itself. Throw in an effective franchise model and advertising geared at health-conscious consumers with an eye for aesthetics, and you have a hit.
The intelligence behind Fariq’s product also lies in its diverse market appeal. When you compare Edible Arrangements to Coldstone, a floundering franchise failure, what are Edible Arrangements’ advantages? Health, for one. Marketability: Fruit bouquets appeal to kids and corporate execs alike. Edible Arrangements’ bouquets are also applicable to a variety of occasions, and relatively recession-proof. Coldstone, meanwhile, focuses on the summertime and leisure crowd, but doesn’t suit itself to, say, dieters celebrating their birthdays.
Based on Farid’s enthusiasm for his franchisees, I’d venture to guess the franchises are managed more effectively, too.
On that note, if any of you readers feel inspired by this interview and would like to send a fruit bouquet in appreciation, please send me a note through our contact form. < / wishful thinking >
Tariq Farid is founder and CEO of Edible Arrangements. Find out more about their mouth-watering edibles at EdibleArrangements.com.