Fresh produce is a tough business to be in so when you reach the third generation and 70 years in business it is really something to celebrate.
Raith Fruit has been operating in Kirkcaldy, Scotland for almost 70 years. The business in now run by Andrew Brady who's grandfather, Charlie, started the business back in March 1952.
Charlie Brady had been selling fruit and veg from the back of a lorry before he opened a shop on Kirkcaldy's high street. The shop closed 10 years ago when supermarkets started to attract consumers away from the high street.
Charlie Brady outside the fruit shop
"It was around this time that a local hotelier came and asked us to supply fruit and veg to his hotel and more hotels and restaurants soon followed, this led us to move the business to units on an industrial estate and trade from there," explains Andrew.
Raith Fruit now supplies fresh produce to the North Sea oil rigs and hotels and restaurants in Scotland including the Balmoral in Edinburgh, as well as many local convenience shops.
Start of e-commerce
As with many wholesalers Raith lost the catering side of the trade during lock down, this amounted to 95% of the business.
"We created a website within a week and started to do home deliveries," said Andrew. "The orders from the local convenience shops also increased as people were wary about going to the supermarkets. The local football club also got in touch as they wanted to support the venerable in the community by giving out veg boxes, other local organisations also asked for veg boxes to make meals for the venerable, we supplied them at the lowest price possible."
Things are almost back to normal now and the catering trade has resumed, people are back shopping at supermarkets, but some of the home delivery trade has been retained as well the convenience shops.
"After the success of the veg boxes we are taking the online side further. We are set to launch a brand new app to take this further and make ordering much easier with option to 'build your own box'. The app will also be open to our also B2B clients as well as consumers.
"We deliver to Fife, Perth, Edinburgh and throughout the central belt. When you buy a veg box there is no plastic packaging at all, and we use local produce when it is in season. Customers can also order milk and eggs as well as our fresh pre-cut chips which are made on the premises."
The KALO piaggio
KALO fresh fruit juice
At Easter Raith Fruit is launching a new product into the range. Fresh fruit juices which will be made on the premises, using ripe fruit which has the best flavour but may not be suitable for delivery. This means there will be no fruit waste and the peel/skin will go to local farmers for compost.
"We have access to all varieties of fruit from apples and strawberries to pineapples and mangoes. The brand will be KALO using the initials of my family's names. We will sell the juice from our own piaggio in Edinburgh during the summer."
At the beginning of this year the company acquired Perth Produce to widen the customer base. "One of the previous owners will stay onboard in order to ensure the same level of service and values for existing customers."
Andrew at the premises in Kirkcaldy
Labour, supply and Brexit
Andrew said they have not really had any major issues with staff as they are a family company and most of the staff have been with them for many years.
Most of the fresh produce is bought at Glasgow wholesale market. some products used to be imported from Europe but since Brexit it just not been worth it.
"Now we only import mushrooms from Poland, to do more is just far too much hassle and paperwork since Brexit, we get what we need in Glasgow and for products like berries and root veg we source those straight from local farmers when they are in season. Everything is sourced within a 20 mile radius from our base.
"I believe that this is the right way to do it, it works better for every one. The main problem is that some farmers are contracted to the retailers and plant solely for them, sometimes this works well but sometimes it doesn't and farmer are out of pocket. It makes them totally reliant on the retailers.
"We charge the market value for our produce which fluctuates, we always supply the best Class one produce available and support local growers. We can't compete with the big retailers and we don't try. People's attitudes are starting to change and they are looking to buy local. We saw the potential during lock down and there is still more potential to be realised with the new app. It will be easy to use user friendly with excellent customer service: Some of our customers have been with us for 40 years.
Photo: Andrew with his grandparents
Looking ahead Andrew wants to specialise in more niche products for Scotland's top restaurants and hotels, "These products are just not available up here. Since Brexit you just can't import small amounts of specialised produce anymore, before you would have gone to Rungis to look for suppliers but its not that easy anymore so we are looking for UK based suppliers for this."