Selling to Government: A fresh approach

We spoke to The Fruit Box Group founder and CEO Martin Halphen as part of our Selling to Government series.

Martin Halphen
Tell us about you and your business

The Fruit Box Group is Australia's leading premium quality workplace fruit and milk delivery company. A start-up in 2001, today we deliver over 35,000 orders per week of fruit, milk, bread and perishable consumables to approximately 10,000 happy workplaces across Australia.

How long have you had government customers?

We have been delivering to government departments for 18 years. Our first department came on board in response to our summer fruit direct mail campaign launched in January 2002. Fruit in the workplace was a very novel idea 18 years ago and we had tremendous traction with businesses across Victoria, where introducing fresh fruit into the office was an unexpected and very welcome change to traditional tea room snacks.

What are the main factors in your success?

Controlling the supply chain has been critical to our success. We have a national infrastructure including 300 staff and 100 refrigerated vans with a complete focus on providing a comprehensive delivery service that's truly reliable and consistent for our customers.

Our national footprint and systems enable us to deliver a consolidated experience and invoicing solution across multiple localities. Customers are saving time and money whilst having quality fresh fruit and milk delivered direct to the office door, department or fridge.

We don't take anything for granted; we're all about improving our customer initiatives. And we're not hell bent on what others are doing. We like to run our own race.

What else are you proud of?

We have been very fortunate in business and had the opportunity to positively impact the wider community through food rescue programs and our social initiative, The One Box, which The Fruit Box launched in May 2017. The One Box now donates fresh fruit, veggies, milk and bread to 1000 Australian families in need each week.

The program is proving that one box of fresh produce each week can make a real difference to people doing it tough. With The One Box, hopefully we're providing a healthy foundation for children that will have a lifetime influence.

How do you seek new opportunities and keep abreast of customer needs?

We've never 'crystal balled' the business. Instead, we've been reactive. By that, we mean that every good idea we've had has evolved from a customer enquiry or question.

The business prides itself on engaging in customer feedback, which has often sparked ideas for new opportunities. During our humble beginnings as a modest sized fresh fruit home delivery service in suburban Melbourne, a customer's enquiry about whether The Fruit Box would deliver to her office inspired an idea that redefined the business. We quickly evolved to service the corporate market and the once slow growth turned into a nationwide explosion.

In 2009, a strategy originally devised to combat the potential effects of the global financial crisis saw the business introduce corporate milk deliveries. With milk now accounting for 40 per cent of the business (and growing), The Fruit Box Group has redefined the 'corporate milk man' to ensure Australian customers never run out of fresh milk at the office. We now deliver more than 300,000 litres of milk each week, which reflects our unique value proposition.

So, where to next? We'll keep listening to our customers as they offer the best guidance about where to take our business.

What tips would you give SMEs hoping to submit a government tender or proposal?

The ability to provide additional benefits that can help distinguish you from other competitors in the marketplace can often give you an edge that might get you across the line and help your business stand out from the pack.

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