Food delivery: how local brands have reinvented themselves. I spoke to Tree Sweets and Ferreira Fresh about their fresh produce delivery service, which began operating during lockdown. It is part of a story written by Adele Shevel. You can find the whole piece here: 

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My contribution, Taking the gap:

The sudden demand for goods delivered to homes has also paved the way for new independent fresh produce businesses. Joburg couple Mark and Cindy Poluta initially planned to launch a delivery service to office parks in May, but the lockdown forced them to change plans.

“We received requests from friends to do home fruit and vegetable deliveries, so we decided to launch early and change our strategy to cater for the consumers who are now trapped at home,” says Cindy Poluta, co-owner of Tree Sweets.

The Tree Sweets mobile app offering for Android and iPhone includes seasonal fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, with various specials available to selected areas within Joburg. Delivery is free based on a minimum order of R200, and takes place twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.

“Things escalated quickly with lockdown,” says Poluta. “I don’t think we could have anticipated the demand. We had to control things by offering delivery to select areas within the reach of our fleet.

“Once we were able to extend our reach slightly, we asked that people send us a text with their area to confirm availability in their area. If they fall outside our primary catchment area, we ask that a minimum order of R300 is placed,” she adds.

Tree Sweets has taken its staff through an intensive training programme, explaining how the coronavirus spreads, and how to correctly wear the masks provided to them.

“We’ve allocated a hand sanitiser unit to each of our trucks and we’ve advised our staff — where possible, once contact has been made with the customer — to place the order on the floor and walk away, allowing the customer to pick the order up while ensuring social distance,” adds Poluta.

Another business that started deliveries from March 23 is Ferreira Fresh, which runs a farm in Midrand but also gets supplies from other markets.

Lino Ferreira, director at Ferreira Fresh, says things have become extremely busy. “We did not expect the demand that we’ve had, with orders pouring in from all areas.”

The company has kept the ordering process simple with only two options; a box of fresh produce for R295 or a larger one for R499. Orders are taken through a dedicated WhatsApp messaging line or e-mail. No phone orders are accepted.

“We wanted to simplify the process for smaller or larger families so people could order and have enough for a week,” says Ferreira. “We chose a variety of more common items that would appeal to most people and had a set price to keep things as simple as possible instead of having a separate delivery charge.

“The feedback was positive, so much so that people thought it was too good to be true and phoned us to check if it was a scam,” he says.

The company has 26 vehicles and makes use of a tracking system to help plot the routes for the drivers, to ensure optimal delivery times.

Ferreira says all drivers have masks, gloves and sanitisers in their vehicles, and have been told to keep their distance when delivering to customers.