Lately we’ve been thinking a lot about our relevance as a gift company. As time passes there’s inevitable change in how we view objects: The definition of beauty evolves. Our need for things changes based on necessity and functionality. Social conventions, style and taste change. The issue of relevance for any company determines success or failure.
About beauty — beauty was the driving force behind the creation of Manhattan Fruitier. We set out to make fruit baskets based on classical imagery of fruit. Not only did we find these classical references beautiful, but they are deeply engrained in our human culture. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of American landscape photographer Robert Adams who stated, “Beauty is a confirmation of meaning in life.”
Here is a classical reference:
Canestra Di Frutta (Basket of Fruit) by Caravaggio, circa
We design our fruit baskets to accentuate the fresh fruit. We accent our gifts with green leaves and flowers. We eschew anything that detracts from the natural beauty of the fruit and stay very close to classical forms that are universally acknowledged as beautiful. I think we are relevant in the beauty sphere.
About functionality – A classic example of irrelevance due to change in human need is the buggy whip. A once thriving industry based on the prevalence of horse drawn carriages was entirely displaced as the motorized car literally drove the horse carriage off the road. You didn’t want to be in that industry, no matter how exceptional your buggy whip was. By the way, there’s a great antique center in a sprawling former buggy whip factory in Norfolk, CT. It’s called The Buggy Whip Factory, no less.
The function our gifts serve is to communicate a gifting sentiment. As long as people continue to send gifts, our gift baskets and other gifts are not likely to become functionally obsolete. It would be a dark, dark world if people stopped gifting, and I’m not sure any of us would want to live in it.
About style and taste — Consider the change in men’s fashion after President Kennedy’s inauguration. Kennedy attended the inauguration in mourning pants, a cut away coat and a top hat. When he stood up to speak he took off his hat. That was the beginning of the end of hats for men. As the fashion changed so did the relevance of that industry. During the 1960s there were at least 300 hat and cap manufacturers in the Greenwich Village area of downtown NYC alone. Today, I’d guess there aren’t 30 in the entire city, and it’s not because production moved overseas. No matter how well run the hat company, or how exceptional the product, the ground had irrevocably shifted against that industry. On a positive note for the hat industry, hats are coming back. Just take a look at the Goorin Brothers hat company.
In terms of style and fashion, our challenge is to show people that our product is not what we jokingly refer to as “your grandmother’s fruit basket.” Our baskets are a very big departure from the gifts that give the fruit basket a bad name. We don’t use cellophane or tape or Mylar balloons. We have always included exotic fruit, heirloom varieties and organic fruits. It’s our goal to create lovely, diverse and tasteful gift baskets.
Relevancy in this context means that people will choose our gifts over others because they communicate their message. Because there is a strong emotional component to gifting, particularly personal gifting, we are confident that the beauty and tastefulness of our gifts will always be fashionable. In the business realm, sending a bountiful and delicious gift communicates abundant thanks and appreciation.
We also believe that our relevance is tied to staying current with food trends, which means our gifts should reflect what is going on in the food world today. This is why we actively source food from artisanal makers across the country. These makers are a combination of old-timers who have been making exceptional food using traditional methods for decades (among them Shelburne Farms, recently featured as a Maker of the Month) and newcomers who are part of the food revolution that we are now experiencing: Quinn Popcorn (another Maker of the Month), Big Picture Farm goat caramels, Brooklyn Brine pickles, La Fundidora Salsa and Liber & Co cocktail crafters to name a few.
We are confident that based on the three pillars of relevancy – beauty, function and fashion – Manhattan Fruitier is relevant today. And we will continue to push ourselves to stay relevant, particularly in staying current with food trends that are extremely exciting for all of us.
Finally, it’s our job to make gifts that capture peoples’ taste and imagination.
I’d welcome your thoughts.