My wife Heidi and I, Karel Paesmans, grow fruit in the heart of Hesbaye. We’re already the third generation to keep the business going. I have to admit though, sometimes we’ve really had to fight to make ends meet. There were times in the past when our hopes often took quite a beating, especially whenever we got the auction bill. It was the same story at the supermarkets, when we saw what our fruit looked like there. What I couldn’t understand is how I could barely manage to make out a living as a fruit grower. And for that matter, how was fruit leaving our orchards in excellent condition, but ending up subpar by the time it reached the supermarket? My dream was for our gorgeous Hesbaye fruit to end up in the consumer's shopping basket looking just like it did in the orchard, and that the government would be willing to lend a hand during hard times. Scandinavia provided me with an answer. In the Nordic countries, it's already commonplace to find fruit at the office. After an on-site visit, I was thoroughly convinced: Fruitsnacks became a reality in the middle of 2005.
However, this decision led to our next challenge: as simple fruit farmers, how were we going to get customers hooked on Fruitsnacks so that the company could flourish? I only stayed in school until I was 18. I had zero experience in this area, not in marketing studies and I had no sales training whatsoever. On top of this, we were the first to start up the fruit delivery at the office concept in Belgium. That meant I had no forerunners to look to for inspiration either. My first achievement was sending out a mailing to 18,000 companies. Afterwards, we really had to put our shoulders to the grindstone: calling companies, visiting them and telling my story. We persevered and never once gave up. Luckily, I could and can count on the support of a fantastic team that brainstorms with me and carries the load where needed.
I went on to lobby for my fruit, so that it would be 100% tax deductible. Our efforts paid off in 2012 when our application was approved. It goes without saying that this gave the business a serious boost. Fruitsnacks now delivers more than 5,500 fruit packages to companies every week. As many as 30,000 of their employees get to snack on all the sweet goodness that Hesbaye has to offer, and so much more. In the meantime, my new adventures have made me feel a little more at home in the wonderful world of marketing, sales, online shops, SEA, SEO, etc. So, what have I learned on my journey? In life it's all about do or dare! That and good understanding of farming will take you a long way. ;-)
Fruit farmer & Managing Director of Fruitsnacks