Healthy snacking in Japan and China: Italy’s Frutteto enjoys rich pickings with innovative ‘ambient frozen’ range

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Frutteto to start manufacturing in Japan as demand grows, on-track with China launch ©Frutteto
Frutteto to start manufacturing in Japan as demand grows, on-track with China launch ©Frutteto

Related tags: Italy, Japan, China, South korea, Fruit

Italian frozen fruit snack company Frutteto will start manufacturing part of its products in Japan, its largest market, and is on-track to launch in China this year.

First launched in Denmark in 2019, the Italian firm is known for its frozen natural fruit puree products, touted as a healthier alternative to sugar-ladled ice pops.

Although it is a frozen fruit snack, it is sold as an ambient product: “The idea is that the consumer takes it home, and put it in the freezer​,” said Greig Gilbert, managing director of Frutteto.

He told FoodNavigator-Asia​: “The reason we did this is because we were keen to export our products, and also for sustainability reasons​.”

Frutteto currently has five SKUs manufactured in Italy, selling across Europe, South Korea and Japan.

Shipping in a dry container with ambient products to Japan or South Korea is less harmful to the environment than sending a freezer container with an entire cold chain from factory to consumer​.” This also reduces the cost of its supply chain.

Japan market

In 2019, Frutteto sold 200,000 units, which increased to 1.5 million in 2020, a jump of 650%.

This year, it is aiming to sell 4.5 million units, especially with growing demand for its largest market, Japan, and the addition of new markets like China.

The company entered South Korea and Japan in 2020, and reception of its products have performed well. Japan now makes up 40% of its total sales, while Korea 10%.

So much so, Frutteto is now starting to manufacture in Japan to meet demand.

Because the demand was higher than what we could cope in our factory in Italy, we worked closely with our distributor in Japan and decided to manufacture part of our products in Japan. While the formulation is done in Italy, the final filling and packaging are done in Japan​,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert attributes its Japan success to its brand strategy.

In Japan, it first marketed Frutteto as a premium product, retailing in higher-end supermarkets and department stores.

This created brand recognition for us, and when we entered into supermarkets, consumers already recognised it from high end stores, and were more willing to add Frutteto into their shopping basket​.”

The company is now aiming to enter convenience stores, like 7/11 and FamilyMart but Gilbert said this would require a change of approach.

We’re planning to sell single units rather than multipacks of five, and these have to be already frozen and ready to eat, unlike our ambient products in retail​.

It’s quite difficult as we don’t have the power of buying freezers and offering them to convenience stores.”

Frutteto is looking for investors to help activate its vision of growing its brand.

Frutteto’s frozen fruit snacks are made from a variety of fruit purees, and sugar (derived from pineapple), without any additives, preservatives or water.

It sources fruit purees from around the world, for instance, raspberry and strawberry comes from Italy, passionfruit from Brazil, and mango from Venezuela.

Mango is an exception as the firm owns its own plantation in Venezuela.

Eye on China

Frutteto has been planning to enter China for over a year, and is on-track to launch there in a few months.

Gilbert said: “China is a significant target in our company’s objectives. We strongly believe that the Chinese consumers will appreciate the freshness and natural characteristics of our product​.

Our aim with China is to launch Frutteto there this year starting with one or two major cities and scaling out gradually to cover as much of the territory as possible,

“We plan to work initially manufacturing the product fully in Italy, but we expect that next year we could be looking for possibilities to replicate what we are doing in Japan and transfer some of our manufacturing process to China​.”

In addition, “the retail sector will appreciate the fact that we are selling a frozen snack but with a 15 month shelf life at ambient temperature, making the whole supply chain significantly cheaper and less complex, especially in a country with such a big geographical footprint as China​.”

Anthony Johnson, managing director at ADN Import Foods, which is helping Frutteto enter China said: “It’s made from 100% real fruit and hits the important health trend that we have seen accelerate in China during last year.”

“As a frozen snack that can be shipped ambient, it’s very convenient for e-commerce, which is a channel that saw explosive growth last year.”

So, we will have an emphasis on selling online first, and will promote through live-streaming. As Frutteto is a highly innovative product, the live-streaming will give us the platform to clearly show off the selling points in a way that is not so easily done on shelf. This launch will be supported offline in premium supermarkets and convenience stores and channels that fit well with the Frutteto brand position​,” Johnson added.

Product pipeline

Frutteto is currently working on a range of products, spanning alcohol, protein, smoothie, yoghurt, jam and kids variations.

One product it intends to launch this year is Frutteto with protein.

It’s for people who go to the gym, and typically consume protein powder mixed with water or milk after a workout. So, we wanted to give an alternative through our convenient fruit snack product, and we are striving to have a minimum of 10g protein in each snack​,” Gilbert said.

Another idea in R&D is a gin and juice product, which Gilbert said could target alcohol drinking markets like Japan, China and Korea.

However, it remains to be seen if the alcoholic versions will be sold under the Frutteto brand, “We’re also making products for kids, so that’s a question that we need to address as a brand​.”

The company has plans to enter Middle East later this year.

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