Simon Herald, managing director, Mr Green Grocer, Adelaide, SA
Tell me about Mr Green "the gourmet grocer"
OUR business now comprises a home box delivery service as well as the original wholesaling side of the business.
I started wholesaling as Mr Green about 12 to 13 years ago.
I left uni, where I was studying accounting to set up my own business.
I had been working in the bar scene, and saw an opportunity to directly supply fruit and veg to bars and pubs.
I started the business out of my old Toyota Corolla, going to the market twice a day because I couldn't fit everything I needed in one load.
My parents felt sorry for me and helped me purchase my first van which saw the business grow.
For a while I fell into supplying just onions - about three tonne a week.
My wholesale business evolved from that.
When COVID lockdowns hit we moved into the home box delivery business to supplement our business.
It now comprises 60 per cent of our overall business, and our customer base remains steady.
We operate out of a shared warehouse in the inner western suburbs of Adelaide, with fridge/freezer space as we need it.
What do you specialise in?
I have aways, always had the ethos that unless the customer tells me otherwise, they always get "Mickey Mouse" produce.
We guarantee all of our produce is of the highest quality and offer a 100pc satisfaction guarantee if you're not happy.
I can count on my fingers how many times I have had to give a credit, because I have the mentality that it is not worth trying to make money on bad produce or squeeze a couple of extra dollars out of your customers.
You end up spending more time chasing your tail to fix it.
What sets your business apart from others?
We are only a small family business - myself, my partner and two other workers.
We also offer work to a person with learning difficulties as we like to offer work to people that would otherwise find it difficult to get a job.
Everyone in the business understands that our customers only want the best, so that's what we deliver, and they keep coming back.
In keeping with our quality promise, we don't hold any stock.
We buy to order; we don't order to buy.
I go to the markets every day, Monday to Friday, and buy exactly what we need.
It is important to us that our customers receive the freshest product every time; we don't cut corners.
Where do you source your produce from?
I source all of our produce from the central market, however I make a point to get to know my growers and visit their farms when I can.
With my bigger lines I have always tried to work with niche growers and spread my buying load to enable me to be able to procure stock at any one time.
Who are your customers?
Our main customers in the wholesaling side of the business are restaurants, bars and pubs and a few home delivery companies and cooking schools.
In our box delivery side of the business we deliver north, south, east and west of Adelaide and into the Hills on specific days.
How did you get into the fruit and veg business?
I started in fruit and veg while at school when I was 13 years old.
I worked part-time at Brookes Brothers in Unley, probably one of the oldest established greengrocers in Adelaide.
I was fortunate to be taken under their wings to learn the business.
I left university and saw the fruit and veg industry as a sustainable way to make a living, and 20 odd years later I'm still here.
In a weird coincidence, you could even say it's in the blood, as my grandfather used to deliver fruit and veg by horse and cart to Bordertown.
What do you most enjoy about the market?
It's fantastic to build long-standing relationships with growers and other wholesalers.
I love being able to give my family access to the best produce available and see my kids enjoying such a healthy diet.
What has changed at the market over the years?
At the moment we are having to deal with stock shortages as there are so many unexpected incidents, such as deliveries interrupted by floods and other climate events.
It's a challenge every day to keep your core items in peoples' boxes, more so than ever before.
How has COVID-19 affected the business?
Post COVID I now have two side of the business, the original wholesale customers as well as the box delivery customers.
When lockdown was announced and we were told we could not deliver to restaurants we went from delivering to 80 customers to two overnight.
Thanks to our expertise in logistics and knowledge of the produce industry we slipped into a box delivery service overnight.
We started with core fruit and veg and have now integrated more retail streams, such as meat and dairy, into the business
Our box delivery service now comprises 60pc of the business, and we are in the process of developing a new website.
What are some of the challenges that you face in the business?
Things are tough, people are working for one or two dollars a box.
It's very labour-intensive to offer our high quality of service.
What does the future hold for the fruit and vegetable industry?
Moving into the future we need to be open to be able to adapt to change to keep the industry viable.
As an industry we also need to look at making our packaging more sustainable across the board, to create a greener footprint.
To do this we need to educate consumers to be open to minimal packaging.
Sign up here to Good Fruit and Vegetables weekly newsletter for all the latest horticulture news each Thursday...