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Desiree Pardo Morales of Tropical Fruit Box: “Really listen to your customers”

We have so many natural resources on our earth that really no one should ever go hungry. As Francis Moore Lappé profoundly discussed in her book, world hunger is not caused by lack of food, but ineffective food policies. My hope is that the produce we source can nourish all of us and bring families, […]

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We have so many natural resources on our earth that really no one should ever go hungry. As Francis Moore Lappé profoundly discussed in her book, world hunger is not caused by lack of food, but ineffective food policies. My hope is that the produce we source can nourish all of us and bring families, friends, and communities together, even if it is currently virtually.


The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Desiree Pardo Morales.

Desiree Pardo Morales is a food innovation executive with a background in tropical produce sourcing, partner alignments, channel marketing, and e-commerce in the U.S. grocery retail and food service industry. Traveling the country, she observed the opportunity for on-demand access to fresh tropical and exotic fruits that were not easily found locally. She founded Tropical Fruit Box, at a time when many were staying closer to home, bringing tropical and exotic fruits from all over the world right to customers’ doors.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/a712c755980387c70a5e2e2b755c1434


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

It is my pleasure! My family has always been connected to the land. Growing up in a Cuban-American household, our kitchen was always filled with fresh avocados, mangos, yucca, and other fruits with names that to this day, I still have trouble pronouncing. At a very young age, I would travel with my father visiting farms in the Caribbean, Central, and South America, as well as all corners of the U.S. These farmers became family friends. And as I grew up, they too grew up and continue to be who we source our tropical and exotic fruits and roots from to this today. I learned early on the value of hard work and a true passion for what you do.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My life lessen quote is a very personal one, “Be Able To Adapt Quickly”.Working in agriculture, we are constantly adapting to a variety of environmental factors. With the pandemic, we have experienced first-hand the supply chain disruption, transit issues, and food service challenges with meals away from home becoming reduced or non-existent. There were even produce shortages at the grocery level. I always say that working in produce means being spontaneous. With produce being a perishable, everything has to move quickly, and that means adapting swiftly to external factors.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I am inspired by the book Diet for a Small Planet by Francis Moore Lappé. It was published back in 1972 and truly revolutionized how we eat, even today. I admire how she outlines simple rules for a healthy diet and offers hundreds of fruit and vegetable based recipes, that offer sound nutrition. When we started Tropical Fruit Box we wanted to, not just offer exotic fruits and roots, but also different ways to combine them through chef collaborated and authentic recipes. With consumers staying closer to home, what better way to nourish yourself, and have some fun with the vibrant colors and unique flavors.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

My family has been sourcing tropical and exotic produce for the U.S. grocery retail and food service industry nationwide for over 40 years. My father started the business after immigrating to the U.S. from Cuba. I spent my summers at the office working in the warehouse when we weren’t traveling to the multigenerational family farms. As an adult, growing up around produce, after I graduated college it was a natural transition to continue working and growing the family business.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

What started as a consumer desire we aimed to fill became a necessity, especially at a time when good nutrition is essential to strengthen the immune system during a health pandemic. We had the inventory and found new ways to reach customers. Once the idea for Tropical Fruit Box came, we quickly worked on packaging, established direct to consumer distribution channels, our e-commerce site, social media and customer service channels. We built the online order and delivery service one customer at a time. Since the pandemic started we’ve ramped up operations in sourcing more volume of fresh tropical and exotics, increased delivery routes and enhanced warehouse capabilities and logistics.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

Traveling the country, I observed the opportunity for on-demand access to fresh tropical and exotic fruits that were not easily found locally. I kept hearing, “they don’t sell that fruit where we are”. One day at a food convention, a buyer’s wife was yearning for our Desbry tropical avocado, or a mangosteen, but it just was not easily accessible. It reminded me of being away at college and not being able to have the fruits and roots that I was accustomed to at home. So, I thought, if we have the fresh produce, why can’t we deliver directly to their doorstep? And at that moment, Tropical Fruit Box and our freshness guarantee was born.

How are things going with this new initiative?

We are excited to be on track to grow our sales 500% this year. We knew there was a need, we adapted and filled a customer demand propelled by the pandemic, but also part of the broader e-commerce trends in just about every category including food. It has been so fulfilling to maintain and grow relationships with the farmer families, work and be inspired by some of the greatest chefs, and to bring a little bit of cheer to families at home during this very different year.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are several along the way. In particular, I’m so grateful to my father, Willy Pardo, a produce executive himself, for everything he taught me and allowed me to experience. One of my first memories, was in the mountains of Ecuador holding my Dad’s hand as I saw a pack of mules with large sacks draped over their sides, guided down a mountain by a farmer. They were carrying a load of a local root, covered in fresh dirt. The proud farmer approached us and said, “it doesn’t get any fresher than this!” as he then broke the root in half with a crisp snap. My Dad smiled, examined the freshness, and passed it to me. At the time, I had no idea what this strange root was, but seeing my father light up and how proud the farmer was, I knew it had to be something special.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

Recently, we partnered with Fresh Del Monte to sell the novel Pinkglow™ pink pineapple. As a minority-owned small business, we are thrilled to be selected by a global company to be one of their exclusive online partners. It completely aligns with Tropical Fruit Box and our mission to deliver fresh tropical and exotic fruits that cannot be found at a local grocery store.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Everyone’s learning and approach is unique to them, but there are always things you wish you know before, even if you have to really learn it on your own.

  1. Strive for that work/life balance but know that it’s never going to be perfect.
  2. Really listen to your customers. Their feedback is what helps you grow.
  3. Launch and always be ready to improve, based on feedback from #2.
  4. Build a powerhouse team. Surround yourself with those who share your vision and unique passion.
  5. Just when you think you have it all figured out, it changes, and you have to be ready to adapt.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

In addition to running the company, I am a mom of three young children, making multi-tasking my highest priority! With the pandemic and online learning for kids at home, I involve them through fun activities, be it testing the recipes together, creating a stage for the fruit photography, and more. Even before this heavy year,I have been somewhat of a fitness enthusiast, while incorporating healthy eating habits. It helps center my thinking while staying agile. We all stay active through different family activities outdoors, which is how I grew up, connected to the land. This last summer my husband and children packed up (with my laptop and our favorite tropical and exotic fruits) in our vintage Airstream RV to enjoy beautiful natural environments.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

We have so many natural resources on our earth that really no one should ever go hungry. As Francis Moore Lappé profoundly discussed in her book, world hunger is not caused by lack of food, but ineffective food policies. My hope is that the produce we source can nourish all of us and bring families, friends, and communities together, even if it is currently virtually.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

It would be amazing to meet and have lunch with @ReeseWitherspoon. Besides loving her movies and hit shows, I admire how she shares her family life, and looks to spend time in the kitchen and outdoors as I do.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me personally at LinkedIn.com/DesireeMorales, and Tropical Fruit Box for the most exotic fruits and chef inspirations at Facebook.com/TropicalFruitBox, and Instagram.com/TropicalFruitBoxUSA.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thanks for the opportunity to tell my story. As I’ve learned from others, I hope others can take something away from what I have shared as we continue to energize the entrepreneurial journey for women around the world.

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