Lockdown business: A popular swimwear maker switched to selling fresh food - within 48 hours

Business Insider SA
Granadilla switched from selling swimwear to fresh food within 48 hours.
  • Local swimwear company Granadilla had no idea that it would be setting aside its range of quirky board shorts and bikinis. 
  • But the retail industry has taken a hard knock since South Africa's Covid-19 lockdown.
  • And business partners Joshua Meltz and Adam Duxbury had to do something.
  • The company now sells fruits and vegetables.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page

A few weeks before President Cyril Ramaphosa declared Covid-19 a national disaster, a local swimwear company called Granadilla had no idea that it would soon have to set aside its range of quirky board shorts and bikinis - and would instead be delivering actual fruit and vegetables.

“About four weeks ago everything changed in South Africa, and we found ourselves in a worrying situation,” says Granadilla co-founder Joshua Meltz. “Retail had come to a standstill and we knew that we needed to act fast to survive the pandemic and economic recession.”

Meltz, together with business partner Adam Duxbury, realised that their business was at risk of closing - and they may have to make their staff redundant. Although the two also co-owned a kombucha business, neither was likely to survive a sustained period of closure under tough Covid-19 measures.

With this in mind, on the 14 March the two pursued a complete change of direction that took just a few days to implement - and has meant that for now, at least, they can still keep their doors open.

“We realised that our assets could be pooled together to help other small businesses, and the idea of door-to-door delivered fresh boxes was born,” says Meltz. “Until that point, we certainly never imagined that we would be selling long stem broccoli or hand-picked carrots!”

The pair put their swimwear business on ice, and instead launched Granadilla Eats. The link between their existing name and their new product offering helped from a marketing perspective, and they used the same branding, marketing platform, and core team from their swimwear business to launch the new initiative.

Within 48 hours, Granadilla went from selling swimwear and kombucha, to delivering their first box of produce.

“Although the product changed dramatically, we were able to quickly pivot our team’s mentality and focus on the things we already had going for us: a strong digital marketing platform to work with, and a dynamic team.”

Meltz says the chaos of the first week of operation as a produce delivery company was reminiscent of their Black Friday sales - and it was their training for this day last year that helped them handle the rush.

Their experience from the kombucha business also helped. They already had sanitary food-handling procedures in place, and they used these to ensure their packing and distribution could be done safely.

“The logistics were the next issue to solve,” says Meltz. “Although we had worked with some of the major couriers before, we needed to maintain control of the process to ensure customers got safe and efficient delivery of their produce.”

The shelf-life and handling of fresh produce differs significantly from swimwear, and so they set up processes to ensure that their boxes didn’t sit in trucks for too long. They also partnered up with a small business called Ehire, which took the deliveries and logistics of the boxes in-house.

“The drivers are part of a network, much like Uber,” says Meltz, “And we have trained them to make contactless deliveries. We also use route optimisation software to make sure they maximise routes and ultimately get paid a fair wage for their time.”

For now, the co-founders are struggling to keep the swimwear side of the operation afloat - but the fruit and vegetable business is booming. In just three weeks, Granadilla has delivered more than 1,000 boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout Cape Town.

They now offer several boxes for order on the Granadilla website, including a breakfast box with eggs, coffee beans, and fresh bread, a pasta box, and mixed fruit and vegetable boxes that contain goods sourced daily from local farms.

“The reality is the demand right now is unprecedented, and competitors will inevitably spring up, which is great,” Meltz says. “People need to stay home and support small businesses right now, and we plan to stay open and build a loyal customer base who we believe will be likely to shop online after the lockdown more than ever before.”

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