Ripe is the UAE’s leading provider of fresh, local organic fruits and vegetables. They are a team of food fanatics, on a mission to educate and engage the community in their passion for local, organic and seasonal produce.
At the top of the tree is Dubai-based entrepreneur, Becky Balderstone, who launched Ripe in the summer of 2011 when she realized that she couldn’t source seasonal, organic, local fresh produce boxes in the UAE, like she could in the UK and elsewhere. It was then that the Ripe seed was first planted and the Ripe Box was born.
Several years and many hours of hard work later, the Ripe team is pioneering the healthy eating revolution in the UAE, with a business that is now firmly on the region’s list of ‘brands to watch’ for 2014.
We asked Becky about her opinions on the Organic Industry in the UAE.
Why was Ripe started?
Ripe initially started when I realized I couldn’t source seasonal, organic, local fresh produce here in the UAE, like I could in the UK. After meeting my husband, a landscape architect, we saw a gap in the market for locally produced, organic food, which was readily available from UAE farms, yet there were few retail channels bringing this to end consumers. Launching the markets was a natural progression of this as I wanted an informal setting not only where you could shop for organic produce but support local businesses. I wanted to create a relaxed atmosphere that was welcoming for everyone. I wanted people to come to the Ripe Markets and feel at home in some way and feel like they belong. Today Ripe Organic retails through our Ripe Farm Shop, online for Home Delivery, at our weekly Ripe Markets, as well as pop-up markets & events. We also work with corporate clients to ensure they can serve local seasonal fruit & veggies on their menu’s. Our markets continue to grow, and we now have 4 weekly markets as well as a number of pop-up markets and events, and they continue to expand so we can accommodate more visitors and more vendors.
How many visitors do you have on an average per month?
Since the launch of Ripe in 2011, the Ripe Markets have grown to become a much-loved weekend gathering place for friends and family. Each week we have thousands of visitors from the UAE and abroad who come together and enjoy good food, entertainment and shop from lots of local and emerging businesses. As well as our 4 main Ripe Markets, we also do pop-up Ripe Organic stand at events, cafes, and schools as part of our Raising with Ripe initiative. Our main aim is to make local produce affordable and easily accessible to everyone so for residents who make it to one of our markets for your organic fruit & veggies, you can pop into our Ripe Organic Farm Shop in Al Manara or order for next day Home Delivery.
In your opinion, how popular is the organic industry in the UAE?
The trend in eating fresh organic produce has increased in the past year, there is more awareness around eating organic fruit and veggies – people are a lot more health conscious and eager to learn about what they are putting their bodies and also the impact farming has on the environment. They want fresh food, that’s been farmed without pesticides, and for it to arrive on their plate with minimum travel time. Our customers are amazed by what can be grown locally in the UAE and many of our customers don’t know that there are so many organic farms in the UAE, and they love supporting local once they find out. They also like trying local varieties of their favourite vegetables including kale, beetroot, and our heirloom tomatoes. There’s also many people following free-from diets for health reasons, where they need to cut wheat, gluten, dairy or sugar from their diets – we cater to all of these too.
Why, in your opinion, do people prefer buying organic nowadays?
People want to know what they are putting in their bodies: where their food is coming from, how it is grown, and how it affects the environment. By buying your produce from Ripe Organic, you are supporting local farmers, getting your veggies as fresh as possible as it reaches your plate within 24 hours from harvesting, and you are supporting organic farming methods which is better for the environment and your health.
A healthy diet incorporating organic food is definitely here to stay. People are a lot more educated about the effects food has on your body, as well as on the environment, and opt to eat clean and understand all the ingredients in their meals. With this demand, there are a lot of healthy restaurants and cafes, as well as juicing and raw food companies popping up. Even large hotel chains are listening to customers and incorporating healthier, fresh, organic food choices into their menu’s.
Interviewed by Menaka Ramakrishnan, Buyer Manager