I began my career in 1992, at a small fruit and veg shop based in Leyland, Lancashire: Pick of the Crop. The company supplied fresh fruit and veg to local hotels and restaurants. The owner of the company at the time, Mark Birkett, was keen to expand the product range, and I was set the challenge of developing a range of prepared fruit to cater for our customers’ expanding needs. After several days of experimenting and sourcing the perfect ingredients and packaging, processing began from the tiny kitchen at the back of the shop.
The range included favourites such as: Fruit Salad, Melon Pearls, Florida Cocktail, Diced Pineapple, Orange and Grapefruit Segments, Pineapple Rings, Diced Mango, Trio of Melon, Tropical Fruit Salad, Caribbean Calypso…etc. This popular product range is now part of The Fruit Factory’s range – we still manufacture all the above products in 5ltr & 2.5ltr buckets to the original mix ratios.
Ten years later, the business was bought out by a local family firm, Sharrocks Fresh Produce Ltd. Most of the existing Pick of the Crop staff moved to Sharrocks. My role within the company was to assist Mark Birkett in developing the current prepared fruit range. A lot of investment was made in developing the new range; high-tech sealing equipment and metal-detection equipment, all within the perfect high-care environment. The new snacking range, “Love fruit” fruit, that you could eat on the go in little pots with sporks was developed, and supplied to a family-run chain of supermarket stores, amongst other outlets.
After 12 months, Mark Birkett decided to take another role within the business as a buyer. His decision to take the new role meant that I was offered a new role within Sharrocks as “Prepared fruit Manager”. This was a very exciting time for me as it meant I had a free reign to show of my natural raw talent within the industry. At only 26 years old, I still had a lot to learn and now, at 37, I still want to absorb information and learn new skills. I was constantly coming up with new ideas and the prepared fruit range seemed to grow and grow. I really had started to realize my niche in New Product Development.
The company, having realized my potential, set me the challenge of developing a new prepared vegetable range, “Veg Express”, as a whole new department was developed. The range really did well – as sales grew, so did the amount of staff in the team. Some weeks the prepared veg exceeded the sales of prepared fruit, especially in winter when fruit sales can dip slightly.
In 2012, I decided to take on another role within the company as a buyer – I needed to learn and understand more about the industry. The role was challenging at first, but I soon found my feet.
I spent 12 happy years at Sharrocks and really developed some good skills and worked with some great people.
In December 2013, Sharrocks was bought out which resulted in me finally achieving my dream.
I’ve always wanted to own my own business ever since I was a young lad – The Fruit Factory was finally established in 2014 with a lot of help from family and friends.
The Fruit Factory was not just dreamed up overnight, nor was it something I had seen on the internet or television and thought I could do that. The Fruit Factory is pure knowledge, experience and understanding about what good is!
The Fruit Factory has a mission….
• We want to sell wholesome food that is fun to eat
• We want to source local produce when seasonally available
• We want to be the best at what we do
• We want to be market leaders in innovation and New Product Development within our industry
• Customer satisfaction is our ultimate goal and we will go that extra mile to make this happen