It’s late afternoon, and you’re ready for a quick snack to hold you over until the workday ends.
Would you rather have an individual bag of over-salted, broken chips from the vending machine, or a fresh, crisp apple? A slightly stale donut, or a pair of juicy, tart tangerines?
Branch to Box, a Lodi-based fruit subscription service, is hoping to make that choice a lot easier.
The service is pretty simple: Offices can choose between a small, medium or large box and choose how frequently and on which day they want it delivered. Then, a box of fruit packed just the day before is delivered straight to the office.
Each “curated” box contains some familiar fruits like tangerines, navel oranges, yellow peaches and granny smith apples, with bananas in medium and large boxes.
There’s also a few packs of Snackettes — various combos of dried fruit and nuts.
Each box also includes some tasty fruits people may not have heard of and that aren’t found in stores, like envy and opal apples, Sumo citrus, cinnamon Bartlett pears, and moro oranges.
“We want to make it easy for offices to eat healthy. We also want to make it fun,” said Chiles Wilson Jr., general manager and partner of the new business.
Branch to Box is a new enterprise, but it’s part of the Rivermaid Trading Company family, headquartered in Lodi since the 1980s.
At the collection of warehouses and packing sheds right on the eastern edge of Lodi, employees pack boxes for Branch to Box along with Rivermaid companies including A Gift Inside and Golden State Fruit.
Rivermaid also grows more than 7,600 acres of pear and cherry orchards in California and Oregon, and produces more than half the pears grown in California.
“My family’s been farming technically since the 1800s,” Wilson said.
His father, Chiles Wilson Sr., is a fourth-generation pear farmer. He began working for All State Packers in the early 1970s, along with his grammar school friend Brian Machado. The two worked their way up through the ranks, and bought the company in 1993.
The firm was renamed to Rivermaid Trading Company in 2010, after the iconic fruit label that had been in the company since the 1930s.
The elder Wilson, Machado and CEO Patrick Archibeque are deeply involved in day-to-day operations.
In 2009, they launched A Gift Inside, which was the brainchild of Chiles Wilson Sr., the younger Wilson said.
The gift basket company was the company’s first foray into direct-to-consumer sales.
“That has been wildly successful,” Wilson said.
It began with just fruit, but as customers began asking for candy and chocolates as well, Rivermaid bought CY Chocolates. All of the chocolate is produced in-house right in Lodi, and most of the fruit comes from Rivermaid’s own fields. The rest comes directly from growers the Rivermaid owners know personally, so they’re confident in the quality.
“We know where the fruit’s coming from,” Wilson said.
The huge success of A Gift Inside inspired the younger Wilson to develop Branch to Box. The service launched in September 2016, and extends through Northern California, with a finger extending down to Fresno.
The goal is to help businesses offer a healthy snack option to their employees, although the small box would also be about right for a family of four, Wilson said.
All of the fruit offered in each box is either ripe, or a couple of days from ripeness. That way, it’s ready to eat but can last a few days instead of needing to be eaten all at once, he said.
“There’s also a luxury element of convenience,” he said.
Occasionally, fruit that is not in season in the U.S. is imported to give each box a little more variety, but most of it comes from growers who have long relationships with Rivermaid. During various points throughout the year, more than half of the fruit in each box is grown in Rivermaid orchards around Lodi, up in Oregon, in the Delta and in the southern Central Valley, Wilson said.
Some of the dried fruit even comes from Rivermaid orchards, he added.
Much of the fruit is organic — Branch to Box hopes to launch an all-organic subscription over the summer — and the packaging is almost entirely recyclable.
If all goes well, Rivermaid hopes to expand the service into Pennsylvania, where they also have some operations, in 2018.
“I’m excited to see if this takes off,” Wilson said.
Contact Lodi Living Editor Kyla Cathey at firstname.lastname@example.org.