(Sept. 6) New York-based Inc. magazine ranked Hamden, Conn.-based Edible Arrangements LLC No. 4 in its list of the top 500 fastest-growing, privately held companies in America.

The list is set to run in the magazine’s September issue.

Edible Arrangements, which recently contracted its 547th store in the world, creates and distributes fresh fruit bouquets. Individual stores procure fruit from a variety of sources, including wholesalers and small vendors, said Stacey Bender, spokeswoman.

Edible Arrangements appeared on the list because of the company’s fast growth over the past five years and its role in a niche market, Bender said. The franchise is opening about eight stores a week, and the company expects to have 1,000 stores by early 2007, Bender said.

Its first store opened in 1999 in East Haven, Conn. In 2001, the company’s first franchise store opened in the Northeast, Bender said.

In 2006, the company’s sales reached $54.8 million — a 155% increase from its sales in 2005, Bender said.

Jeff Sloan, who opened an Edible Arrangements franchise in December in Lenexa, Kan., said the ranking should create more brand awareness.

“I think any time you’re listed by a major magazine like that as a top five fastest-growing, privately-held company, it’s not going to be a bad thing for the industry by any means,” Sloan said.