(April 21) For terminal market salesmen who complain of losing business to large grower-shippers selling direct to retail, the fruit bouquet industry may one day be a welcome channel.

And for the produce industry as a whole, fruit bouquets could increase movement of product.

“I think it (fruit bouquets) definitely should increase fruit sales,” said Amanda Notaris, founder and owner of Fresh Fruit Bouquet Co., Williston Park, N.Y.

An apple berry bouquet from Fresh Fruit Bouquet Co. features pineapples and cantaloupes sculpted into daisies, strawberries masquerading as roses, chocolate-covered granny smith apples posing as leaves and grapes filling in as baby’s breath.

Available in five sizes, that bouquet costs $59.99-179.99.

Except on Valentine’s Day, Notaris said the typical fruit bouquet customer is a middle to upper class professional female, aged 30 to 50.

Kristy Ferguson, vice president of marketing for Hamden, Conn.-based Edible Arrangements LLC, said the franchise offers containers for the fruit bouquets in duck, bear and elephant coin banks for children, and there are sports containers for men.

The fruit bouquet industry is also creating a niche market for wholesalers, said Jeff Sloan, who opened an Edible Arrangements franchise in December in Lenexa, Kan. Sloan said his franchise sells about 400 bouquets a month.

Sloan said he prefers to source from local wholesalers because doing so offers him more control over timeliness, ripeness, quality and selection.

“They’ve got it ready to eat, and we don’t have to wait for anything to ripen because we pick it up so frequently,” Sloan said of his relationship with Liberty Fruit Co. Inc., a wholesaler in Kansas City, Kan.

Notaris said her company also sources from smaller vendors because it is easier to build a rapport with them.

Jerry Welcome, president of the International Fresh-cut Produce Association, Alexandria, Va., agreed.

“It’s partially economic. If you’re doing a small number of baskets, no wholesaler wants to deal with you,” Welcome said.

Ellen Davis and Susan Ellman claim they started the trend in 1984 when they opened a fruit bouquet store in Broomall, Pa.

“It started to grow by word-of-mouth, and now we have 37 franchises across the country,” said Davis, co-owner of Broomall-based Incredibly Edible Delites Inc.

In 2005, Incredibly Edible Delites sold more than 100,000 fruit baskets, Davis said. A typical Incredibly Edible Delites Inc. franchise sells about 25-35 bouquets a day, she said.

Though the fruit bouquet trend is relatively new, Davis said, it is not a fleeting fad.

“My main feeling is that what we do is universal and can be enjoyed universally,” Davis said. “There will always be a market for fruit. Croissants were popular for a long time and now you can’t find them anywhere.”

Fruit bouquets blossom
Fruit bouquets, pictured above, are baskets featuring produce items cut to resemble floral arrangements.