WALLINGFORD, CT. When your customers expect gifts of fresh fruit arrangements to be delivered in a timely manner, refrigeration is vital. Keeping the fruit properly chilled is crucial to the end-product that Edible Arrangements delivers daily to thousands of addresses around the world. The company retails what it terms “artistically designed fresh fruit arrangements.” The arrangements, made fresh each day at one of the more than 970 franchise locations worldwide, are not unlike a bouquet of flowers-- although much tastier.

But despite growing success in the international consumer gift market, the Wallingford CT-based company had a key operational issue to tackle at home, according to co-owners Tariq Farid and Kamran Farid, who founded the company in 1999. Edible Arrangements’ Ford E-150 vans were oversized for the light-duty delivery task. On top of that, diesel-powered refrigeration units they were fitted with were wasteful—essentially cooling more air than product.

The solution the co-owners came up with was two-pronged: Put into service a smaller truck and fit it with a more economical reefer unit for the job at hand. Their solution was to install an all-electric thermo King refrigeration into a Ford Transit Connect.

In recognition of Edible Arrangements taking such initiative to help their fleet save fuel and run greener, Thermo King, manufacturer of the new electric refrigeration unit, presented the retailer with Thermo King’s first-ever “Energy Efficiency Leader Award” at a ceremony held at Edible Arrangements corporate headquarters in Wallingford, CT on Friday.

Tariq Farid, CEO, was unable to attend, but COO Kamran Farid was on hand as were other company executives and employees. Farid was presented the award by Chris Casazza, president of Thermo King.
Thermo King said it developed its B-100 all-electric refrigeration unit specifically for the light-duty application posed by Edible Arrangements.

The B-100 reefer unit—which is now available for general sale—is projected to cut Edible Arrangement’s fuel use 27% per vehicle annually. That translates to roughly $7,000 in savings for each 40,000 mi. driven, Farid told FleetOwner. The average Edible Arrangement Transit Connect covers about 200 mi. per day, he noted.

The B-100 reefer unit the vehicle’s battery to cool the cargo area when the vehicle is running. What makes this particular unit so attractive, said Farid, is it can be plugged into any standard 110-volt outlet, anywhere, at anytime, to be charged up.

Another key to the vehicle’s overall efficiency is the insulation inside the body. Installed by Sub-Zero Insulation & Refrigeration Technologies, it measures 3 in. thick and includes a “seamless” liner. This holds in the temperature, usually keeping it between 35 and 40 deg. F, for longer periods of time. That despite the need for drivers to constantly open and close one of the three doors (two side, one rear) spec’d on the trucks. In addition, a lightweight aluminum shelf has been installed to provide plenty of room for the arrangements.

“During the holidays we’re probably putting 40 to 50 arrangements [in the vehicles], but on a normal day, we probably put in 20, so the [E-150] van was overkill for us,” Farid said. And the full-sized vans, with their extra space that also needed to be cooled, resulted in just too much wasted fuel—they only reached 12 mpg.

Edible Arrangements began looking for a better vehicle solution just about from the start. Farid said they tried everything, including pickup trucks, without any luck. Until a trip to Europe.

“I travel to Europe a lot and everything there is small,” Farid said, adding that he saw Ford’s Transit Connect on the road there and thought it would be a perfect fit for the growing company, which now includes more than 970 franchisees around the world.

“It’s so much easier to drive than the vans,” Farid noted.

But at the moment of discovery, the Transit Connect had yet to arrive on the U.S. market. And because of that, no one had yet considered a refrigeration solution for that truck. Farid said that while the Transit Connect gets 22 to 23 mpg, the company did not want to give that gain away with a diesel-powered refrigeration system. So, Edible Arrangements contacted its suppliers – Thermo King, Sub Zero, and Holyoke, MA-based Marcotte Ford – to see what they thought..

“When Kamron started talking to us about the Transit Connect, we didn’t know what we were going to do from a refrigeration standpoint,” Frank Pryzwara, district sales manager for Thermo King, said. “That truck is so small, if we put a bigger unit on it, we might be taking a step backward. So we looked to what we had in Europe.”

Thermo King took a battery-powered unit and modified it, and working with Sub Zero, was able to come up with a viable alternative. The only major change was spec’ing a larger alternator in the Transit Connect to accommodate the electric unit.

According to Farid, all four companies began working on the package a year before the Transit Connect actually reached the U.S. Once it did, Edible Arrangements was among the first to buy the Eurotruck. It spec’ed the front-wheel drive vehicles with a 138-hp., 2.0-liter Duratec 4-cyl. engine and a 4-spd. automatic transmission.

To date, more than 60 of the reefer-equipped trucks have been put into operation by Edible Arrangments—and some 200 more are scheduled for delivery in the next year.

Farid pointed out that the company’s entire 1,300-vehicle fleet will eventually be converted to the Ford Transit Connect outfitted with the all-electric Thermo King B-100 unit.