How to Run a Produce Delivery Business

Basket of Produce image by Mary Beth Granger from Fotolia.com

A vegetable delivery business can be a wholesale distributor moving produce to grocery and speciality stores or a home delivery service providing custom or subscription boxes. Either business model requires infrastructure for storage and delivery, and a marketing plan to reach the right clientele.

Running a produce delivery enterprise takes knowledge of produce as well as business savvy. It's a tricky industry because the product is perishable and there's so much competition. At the same time, it's an opportunity with boundless potential because of the stunning variety of fruits and vegetables and the ongoing interest in healthy eating.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

To run a produce delivery business, build a network of farmer suppliers, market your produce at the wholesale or retail level and develop the infrastructure you'll need to store and deliver your fruits and vegetables.

Planning Your Vegetable Delivery Business

A produce delivery business can either operate on a wholesale level, selling fruits and vegetables to stores and other retailers, or it can operate at a retail level, selling directly to consumers. If you sell at the wholesale level you'll move more product so you'll need a bigger truck and a larger warehouse. If you distribute directly to customers you'll end up making smaller average deliveries but you'll earn more for each item because you'll be able to charge retail rather than wholesale prices. Your offerings may also be more specialized so you can provide options that make your delivery service more appealing than the produce section of a typical grocery store.

Selling vegetables for profit requires building a network of suppliers who can provide quality produce at prices low enough to absorb the markups you'll need to add to earn your own profit. If you buy directly from small-scale farmers, you can take advantage of their knowledge of heirloom varieties and their ability to plant limited quantities of a wide variety of specialty items such as herbs and mesclun mix. If you buy from a larger distributor, you'll likely pay lower prices but you'll have to buy in larger volume so you could have more waste.

Vegetable delivery requires infrastructure as well. Along with a warehouse for dry storage and a cooler to refrigerate and preserve shelf life, you'll need a vehicle to transport your offerings. It needn't be a refrigerated truck unless you're delivering processed products such as precut fruits and vegetables. However, coolers or refrigeration during transport will extend the shelf life of the produce you offer.

Marketing Your Vegetable Delivery Business

If you're delivering produce directly to customers' homes, you'll need a website to showcase your offerings and provide an online ordering portal. An online ordering system makes considerably more sense than selling fruit and veg door-to-door because you can tailor your purchasing to the orders you receive, minimizing waste.

Your online ordering platform can either use a subscription or a menu model. A subscription arrangement offers customers a choice of different levels of service such as small and large boxes and weekly or biweekly delivery. A menu system lists all available options such as specific varieties of fruits and vegetables and offers customers free reign in choosing the contents of their deliveries. You can also blend the two models by offering menu choices to complement a subscription system or allowing customers to switch out a couple of items weekly from a standardized subscription.

Understanding Your Competition

Your vegetable delivery business will be in competition with other produce delivery services and also with the produce departments in area groceries where your customers can also buy fruits and vegetables. To stand out and attract a loyal customer base, study competing options and develop selling points that distinguish your service from other available options.

You may offer only organic produce, or fruits and vegetables sourced directly from area farms. Alternately, you may scour the globe for exotic fruits and vegetables, and develop a superior network for importing them. Whatever approach you choose, understand your unique target market and look for efficient and creative ways to reach these customers.

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About the Author

Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.

Photo Credits

  • Basket of Produce image by Mary Beth Granger from Fotolia.com