When Prahran Market favourites Ripe Organics kicked off over 18 years ago they could never have imagined they would become pillars of the organic community in Australia supporting small brands to grow into award winning mainstream businesses.
As Monica Meldrum, Founder and CEO of Whole Kids (Australia’s largest range or organic kids’ snacks) scooped the top gong at this years Australian Organic Excellence Awards, Ripe just had to recount the story of where it all began…
(Pictured above: Paul, owner of Whole Kids stockists Ripe Organics & Monica Meldrum, Founder of Organic Business of the Year Whole Kids).
Brothers Andy and Paul kicked off what is now Ripe Organics with an organic fruit and veg home delivery service. Before its time, this convenient door to door enterprise offered a growth avenue for organic food and a convenient solution for consumers. Andy started the business in the early 90’s taking orders over the phone (yes children – the internet was not a thing) and recruited brother Paul for deliveries because he owned a Kombi van (amongst other talents).
Paul recounts his 1 day a week position; “I delivered around South Melbourne, St Kilda and many of the surrounding suburbs. If someone wasn’t in, they would leave the money in an envelope at the front door or the house key under a pot plant so I could get in. Home delivery was very different back then”
At this stage the pair were still holding down other employment but this side hustle evolved in 1996 when they took a spot at the Queen Victoria Market. The growth of organic foods in Australia led the business to develop and eventually taking the stall at Prahran Market 2000, they officially became Ripe Organics. Now the store stocks a wide range of fresh and ambient certified organic products from deodorant to baby food.
Just a few years later, market regular Monica Meldrum tracked down owner Paul from the Ripe team for his advice. “My husband James and I had an idea for a kids organic food business that we were determined to launch. At the time both of us had full time corporate jobs and no experience in the food industry, we needed an industry sounding board and we found that in Paul and Andy”
Perhaps it was the timing with father of 4 Paul having recently commenced his journey into fatherhood but Monica recalls his generosity with his time.
“I told Paul all about our idea to make a kids food product that was organic, additive free and nutritionally superior. At the time if you wanted convenience it came in the form of packaged junk and we saw an opportunity to give parents choice and their children a healthy and tasty option. We told Paul we would make juice boxes from real pure organic fruit with nothing added, we would source organic dried sultanas and create organic fruit bars without preservatives, colours or flavourings.
“He seemed to grasp the concept and agreed that it would be nice as a parent to have the option. While he didn’t jump up and down with excitement, he must have shown a slight glimmer of interest because I remember the conversation vividly, and his polite encouragement was enough for us.
“With all the money we saved to buy a house, we manufactured our first run of Whole Kids certified organic products in 2005.
“Our small rented house in Richmond was packed full of cartons from floor to ceiling that sometimes we struggled to find space to have dinner. As we looked at all the stock around us, we had a lot of sleepless nights. After all, we didn’t even have a single customer yet.
“We packed up our bags and exhibited at the first Organic Expo held in Sydney in 2005. We’d just spent our life savings and we were worried no one would even visit our stand. Thankfully, the response we got was overwhelming. Mums and Dads really appreciated what Whole Kids was all about, and kids just loved our yummy snacks. Seeing so many happy, smiley faces at our stand, we decided to resign from our jobs the following Monday and jump into business for ourselves. Whole Kids was officially launched.”
Ripe Organic became one of Whole Kids first customers, stocking the very product Monica had discussed with Paul. In the 13 years since the organic market in Australia has grown and so too the number of options from Whole Kids who now have Australia’s largest range of organic children’s snacks.
“When we started Ripe our customers were people who lived a 100% organic lifestyle, now our customers are a mixture of all kinds of people. Some customers just buy organic where they feel it matters most, for example higher risk fruit and veg or products for their kids. Parents are becoming more educated and more informed, they know to look for certified organic products. I know myself when I became a parent, I started paying attention to what was in products and parents today are still looking at this even with convenience products.”
(Pictured: Andy, owner of Whole Kids stockists Ripe Organics at the Australian Organic Awards with winners Monica & James Meldrum)
Andy was excited to have been at the Australian Organic Awards in Canberra last week to see Monica and James collect the award.
“Whole Kids products are really popular in store and we take the entire range. It’s so great to have watched Whole Kids grow and gain the recognition they deserve as Organic Business of the year.”
Find the full range of Whole Kids juices, pouches, puffs, bars, biscuits and more at Ripe Organic, Shop 7, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Rd, Prahran, 3141. Find out more about Whole Kids at www.wholekids.com.au.