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One of the ways FreshDirect markets its fruit is by season, but now seasonal fruit translates to year-long availability thanks to Frutero’s ice cream.

Ice cream on the produce page? Here’s FreshDirect’s cross-merchandising strategy

Collaboration with newcomer Frutero is paying dividends for online-only retailer


  • Online-only grocer FreshDirect is merchandising Frutero ice cream on its produce pages — with notable success
  • Leveraging search terms and SEO has been key to the strategy
  • “Pineapple,” an ice cream flavor co-developed by the two partners, has brought in an 18.9% increase in first-time category shoppers and a 57.7% increase in customers new to Frutero

Once upon a time, two companies got together and used purchasing data to drive strategy. A fairytale come true.

Online retailer FreshDirect was initially sold on Frutero’s product: ice cream made with tropical fruit picked at peak ripeness.

But when Frutero’s consumer purchasing data revealed that their best customers are more fruit fans than ice cream lover, the two partners knew they were on to something. Why not market ice cream in the digital produce aisle?

Really, why not?

FreshDirect, meet Frutero Ice Cream

“The interesting thing that made the partnership initially really so great,” said Mike Weber, co-founder of Philadelphia-based Frutero Ice Cream, “is FreshDirect, as it says in the name, is all about bringing the freshest, best-quality produce to consumers, and we at Frutero are all about bringing the best-quality tropical fruits to consumers. So, we’re very aligned on the same issue.”

FreshDirect freezer category leader Gabriela Diaz couldn’t agree more.

“We didn’t have anything like it. Frutero Ice Cream is a unique brand. FreshDirect really prides itself on delivering amazing fresh produce,” she said. “It’s such an important part of our business, and we work with a lot of amazing farms directly and just care a lot about the sourcing and making sure we have the best products for our customers. So, it was such a natural fit to be able to offer the exact same thing in the freezer category.”

New online strategy: Cross-merchandising

Frutero arrived with more than an appealing product. It also brought along some eye-opening data that shook up the marketing strategy at New York-based FreshDirect.

“This is really the first data-driven approach that we’ve done,” Diaz said. The data showed that online shoppers are using simple search terms like “apple,” “pineapple” and “banana” very regularly, so why not tie that to the freezer section? 

They then went on to optimize search to make sure the ice cream brand is tagged under certain terms.

The retailer-vendor partnership got started with three flavors: guava, mango and passionfruit, and soon added guanabana and pineapple.

“By using search, we have products that can come up from many categories,” Diaz said. “So, fruit is now not just limited to what’s in the fruit section, but it can go into the frozen section, and Frutero Ice Cream really has an amazing brand that has capitalized on that collaboration between fresh and frozen.”

Thus, when a customer searches for, say, mango on FreshDirect’s website, not only do mangoes pop up on the shopping page, but so does Frutero Mango Ice Cream.

“We know these consumers have this need for produce,” said Frutero’s Weber. “Well, they don’t need to look for one temperature item at a time. We can show them all the products that are relevant to them. … We don’t have to worry about having a freezer next to them to them to show them the item.”

Just mad about mangos — and pineapples, too

One of the ways FreshDirect markets its fruit — and its fruit-flavored ice cream — is by season, but now seasonal fruit translates to year-long availability thanks to Frutero’s ice cream. That especially works for FreshDirect’s Mango Madness promotion.

Mango Madness this year saw a 7x increase in sales in that mango SKU compared with the previous year, according to Weber, who noted a threefold overall increase for the brand as customers explored the rest of the Frutero line.

Other data that backs up the collaboration’s success involves the high rate of return on a flavor the partners developed as the result of an especially popular search term: “Pineapple.”

The pineapple segment alone has brought in:

  • 57.7% increase in customers new to Frutero
  • 18.9% increase in first-time category shoppers
  • 23.4% of pineapple ice cream purchasers were existing Frutero customers

“That’s been really exciting to see,” Diaz said.

Structured supply chain fills consumer demand

Important to the whole setup, of course, are the core ingredients, dependable sourcing, and exceptional harvest techniques.

“We have a complex supply chain,” noted Frutero cofounder Vedant Saboo. “Most of our fruits come from Colombia. The fruits are prepared one day after being plucked right from the trees.”

So, how does a retailer-manufacturer collaboration market a product when everything is online and there’s not a brick-and-mortar store in sight? By creating “a cross-category marketing strategy to drive fruit lovers to the ice cream aisle while bringing Frutero to the produce aisle.”

“We don’t have to worry about having a freezer next to the produce aisle,” Weber said.

So, what’s next for this partnership? Ice cream bars. Stay tuned.

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