How The FruitGuys Company Grows in a Tough Economy

October 2011

On October 25, 2011, FruitGuys founder and CEO Chris Mittelstaedt joined the radio hosts of BNET's show "The Live One" to talk about how he built a small fruit company into a successful, nationwide operation. As the "Chief Banana" of the FruitGuys, Mittelstaedt first received a visit from "The Live One" in 2009, where they captured video footage of the company's distribution methods and fruit selection. Mittelstaedt took the crew around the packing floor, where local and organic fruits are placed into recyclable boxes and then delivered to nearby cities. Some of the delicious fruits harvested that year included navel oranges, blood oranges, Minneola tangelos, and Ojai pixies.

Back in 2009, the FruitGuys employed almost 40 people, had three facilities in cities around the United States, and shipped fruit to thousands of different businesses on a weekly basis. This equates to more than 100,000 pieces of fruit delivered each week, which is an impressive number. It hasn't all been smooth sailing for this fruit company, however. In 2001, the Dot Com boom quickly became a bust, and the FruitGuys found itself stretched way beyond its means. To deal with this harsh reality, Mittelstaedt was forced to lay off half of the company's workforce and spend a lot of time getting some basic finances in order. Essentially, the San Francisco Bay Area's technology crash prompted the FruitGuys to change from a local California company into a nationwide presence. Many people who lost their tech jobs in San Francisco found work elsewhere, but still kept in touch with the FruitGuys regardless, which created a new demand for their fruit delivery service in other parts of the country.

Today, the FruitGuys operation has evolved to a new scale, where the company can now deliver fruit to homes and schools. A few different copycat startups have even tried to rip off the FruitGuys' business model, including one in New Zealand that operates under the same name. Starting a fruit delivery company isn't as easy as it might seem, though, so Mittelstaedt isn't too worried about the competition. He's more interested in trying to educate people about exotic, nutritious fruits like kiwi berries, keep them eating healthy at work, and maintain a consistent vision for his business as it grows larger.