From fruit to fruit salad – get to know your customer and add value!

In my office in Freetown, Sierra Leone, I work with men and women who in the main, have lived, studied and/or worked in more than one country. It didn’t take long for the vendors who came to sell, to suss that fried fish and meat products were a non-starter, but fresh fruit found a ready market.

Everyday, for four months three enterprising women, with heavy trays of fruits balanced on their heads, walked up to our third floor office. They used the security guard as their go-between – probably giving him a small share of their sales. As they became familiar with our tastes, they narrowed their product range to limes, plums, guavas, pineapple, oranges and grapefruits. When they realised some of us wanted to snack on the fruit at our desk, they came with a sharp knife and offered us peeled fruit.

And then last month, we were introduced to another entrepreneur – a young woman who pre-prepares and sells fruit salad. Chunks of fresh papaya, plum, watermelon and grapefruit in a plastic container, accompanied with a fork and a paper napkin.

Well, Marks and Spencer and other food retailers discovered some time ago that office workers in the UK would pay more for fruit that was peeled, diced and sold with a plastic fork. It’s what the European fruit and veg industry calls a value-added produce product. Not only would they pay more for pre-prepared fruit, they very often preferred it to whole fruit.

That same lesson has proved true in our case.

It’s probably needless to say, we don’t see our original three fruit sellers very much any more. But the young woman who makes fruit salad is doing very brisk business.

The market waits for no one!

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