Oddbox: delivering on their promise of freshness Oddbox: delivering on their...

Oddbox: delivering on their promise of freshness


26 Apr, 2022
Simon Whitelaw crouching in a local farm that previously supplied Oddbox with produce

Simon Whitelaw firmly believes that creating high-quality food requires high-quality produce. When he launched his online fruit and vegetable delivery business, Oddbox, he was able to put this belief into action.

Through Oddbox, Simon is not only able to provide high-quality fruit and veg, but he’s also able to support other small businesses, local farmers, and communities.

Before the lockdown in March 2020, the chef and entrepreneur operated a food stall at a market and worked as a private chef. When the lockdown hit, his business dried up. In need of a source of income, he decided to launch Oddbox. “I had had the idea for OddBox for some time and had already begun trialling it on friends and family,” he says. “It was a no-brainer to launch it as soon as lockdown hit. It was, and still is, far from perfect, but thankfully it got traction right away.”

Read more: 6 factors you should consider when starting a business

We caught up with Simon to learn how he grew his business from the ground up.

What were some of the key things you had to consider when establishing your business?

To be honest, I didn’t put much thought into it before launching due to the clear demand from consumers and my need to survive. We just ploughed ahead and learnt on the job.

From the beginning, my partner and I knew that we wanted to use minimal to no plastic, use primarily local, small farmers, and keep the costs down and, subsequently, prices as low as possible. Everything fell in line with these core beliefs.

There was a lot of trial and error, but I love the phrase ‘If you’re going to fail, fail quickly,’ and this was something we had to apply on numerous occasions as we tried several different approaches and products which did not work in the first few weeks and months.

Rows of produce at a local farm that used to supply Oddbox

What are Oddbox’s core values, and how do these play out in your day-to-day operations?

The quality of our produce is at the forefront of pretty much everything we do daily.

Transparency is also really important, so I let our customers know as soon as possible if there’s a problem with any of their produce. They’ll then receive a voucher for their next delivery if we can’t include something.

To add to that, I always ensure our staff are well fed and get their fair share of fresh fruit and vegetables to take home, as a core goal of ours is to have everyone eating more fresh fruit and veg.

Read more: The Fussy Vegan: using customer loyalty to scale their business

You promise your customers high-quality produce. What do you do to ensure that the box’s contents maintain that promise?

This is a core part of our USP. Nothing sits around in our fridges. We procure and deliver on the same day, which means nothing has a chance to go limp or lose flavour.

I’m actively involved in the quality control process and take great pride in how our team has grown to identify issues relating to quality and freshness. Plus, we have a ‘no questions asked, money back guarantee’ for any bad apples that may slip through.

Simon Whitelaw digging through fresh produce

How do you select what goes into the box each week?

Seasonality plays a huge role in this. Produce that’s in season isn’t just more readily available; it’s better quality and more sustainable. More seasonal produce means less effort is required to grow, which means a smaller carbon footprint. It’s the way nature intended us to eat.

Each week, I sit down and look at the availability lists given to me by the markets and farmers and work out what’s possible to include in the box that week. There will always be a couple of staple items, such as one green vegetable and bananas – I tried leaving them out once or twice, and the response was deafening. The rest of the box consists of seasonal specialities with the occasional, high-demand semi-seasonal item thrown in.

How has Oddbox evolved since you first started the business?

Soon after launching the business, we began offering additional products such as fresh bread, oat milk, and kombucha. We also added a bunch of staples one can add to their box and allow customers to build their own box. These can be filled with any selection of ‘add-ons’ you fancy.

Another feature we added fairly early was the option to sub out items you didn’t want for another item of similar value from that week’s selection. This was also something of a first, I believe, for the ‘Veg Box’ industry as it’s a common gripe for those ordering a set box that they may not know how to cook the beetroot. The good news is that you can swap it out for extra apples if you want! Our customers love this feature.

We’ve recently begun tinkering with meal kits, and it’s something we’re looking at expanding on in the future.

Read more: Nude Foods: the intimate details of growing a sustainable business

What was an unexpected challenge you faced when establishing Oddbox, and how did you overcome this?

Customer retention is and continues to be our biggest challenge. We are always trying to make ourselves indispensable to our customers, but the problem is that we have an incredible number of competitors out there.

I’m continually trying to add value for our customers and differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Presently we’re tinkering with meal kits, and I’m having fun getting back to my cheffing roots.

Rows of produce at a local farm that used to supply Oddbox

Why did you choose to incorporate SnapScan into your business?

I had a great experience with SnapScan with my previous business at the market food stall. I found the system easy to use, and the majority of people were familiar with it and had the app. Currently, more than 50% of our sales come through SnapScan, so it was a good decision.

What lessons have you learned since starting Oddbox?

I’ve learnt that I need patience when starting and running a business. Breathing and taking a few seconds is important when you find yourself in a stressful situation.

I’ve also learnt to delegate more effectively and be more explicit about the instructions I hand out to subordinates. I also continue to learn that it’s about working smarter rather than harder most of the time.

Want farm-fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to your door? Head to Oddbox’s website for affordable, quality produce you can turn into something delicious.

Want to share your business’ SnapScan story with us? Send us a mail at stories@snapscan.co.za 

Written by

Megan is a Content Strategist at SnapScan, with a book-buying habit that is spiraling out of control.

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