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Edible Arrangements’ foray into the quick-serve segment could hit the health-food jackpot—or already be too late.
A fruithy™ from Frutation.

“Fruit bouquet” delivery company Edible Arrangements is getting into the quick-service sector with the national launch of Frutation by Edible Arrangements.

Pitched as “a grab-and-go concept,” Frutation stores, which will be in high-traffic areas near core Edible Arrangements locations, will offer smoothies, juices, salads, and dipped fruit. Customers will be able to order fruit arrangements as well.

The concept was in the works for two years, during which the company tested quick-service stations in 20 Edible Arrangement locations. The first fully functioning Frutation opened in Puerto Rico on October 5, and five more are scheduled to open in December.

After a decade of rapid growth—the Connecticut-based company recently opened its 924th store—CEO Tariq Farid says Frutation “is the biggest thing we’ve done since Edible Arrangements was founded.”

“It required us to think of a market that we were never comfortable with,” Farid says, referring to the quick-serve arena. “This was kind of an alien thing for us. But at the same time we see incredible opportunity.”

Adding a quick-service component was in many ways a no-brainer for an operation that already handled perishable food. But refining the Frutation concept meant rethinking strategy. Now that it is going after foot traffic, the company can no longer settle for B-grade locations, Farid says.

“We’ve stayed away from prime locations because we didn’t have the impulse buy, [but] now we’re taking Edible Arrangements to Main Street,” Farid says. “This is a whole new store.” Farid says malls, downtowns, and train stations are all possible Frutation sites.

Despite a down economy, Edible Arrangements was aggressive this year, opening about 100 stores and expanding overseas. Farid says he expects to ink 50 Frutation deals in the next three months, putting him close to his goal of 1,000 total stores in 2010.

But while he considers Frutation one-of-a-kind—“What we’re launching no one does,” Farid says—one industry expert questions whether there is any room in an already saturated health-food market.

“I always go back to what the point of difference [is] on the street to the consumer,” says Kimberly Egan, CEO of the Center for Culinary Development. “Why are they going to walk into your place when there’s a Jamba Juice around the corner?”

From a business standpoint, Egan says Frutation is a “very clever” way for Edible Arrangements to maximize efficiency. But she adds that the company must distinguish its products from the competition.

“That for me is the biggest hurtle,” Egan says. “The only difference that I see is the dipped fruit [and] I don’t know if that’s a large enough difference, frankly.”

The only difference that I see is the dipped fruit [and] I don’t know if that’s a large enough difference, frankly.”

Jamba Juice declined to comment on its newest competition. A Smoothie King representative says that the company will monitor Frutation’s progress and that it remains confident in its own approach, which includes adding protein and vitamin supplements to its smoothies.

“When there’s someone new in town, people may be curious and want to try it,” says Katherine Meariman, Smoothie King’s executive vice president of administration. “But if your locations have done what they need to do, we believe the customers will come back to a better product.

“We’ll wait and see what happens with them,” Meariman says. “We’re always watching our competition.”

Frutation’s tag line—“Real Fruit. No Kidding.”—suggests a strategy for standing out based on quality, natural ingredients. There is also the sense at Edible Arrangements that it can continue “riding the healthy,” as Farid says.

Egan agrees, but with a caveat.

“That wave is going to continue,” she says. “The question is, what is the appropriate surfboard? Is it still smoothies or something else?”

The next round of Frutations will be opening in major cities, including Boston and Los Angeles.

Jordan Melnick is QSR's online exclusives reporter.