FrescoFrigo conquers the world. The success of the Italian smart refrigerators startup

Apr 12 2021, 08:28 | by Livia Montagnoli
Born in 2018 from the intuition of Enrico Pandian, FrescoFrigo is a startup that has interpreted new consumer habits, first by tapping into the health food segment, then adapting to changing needs during the pandemic.

The success of smart refrigerators

In 2019, FrescoFrigo was just one year old. At the time, talk was mainly about the potential of intelligent vending machines in regards to the startup launched by Enrico Pandian, intending to penetrate the health food market. This was an expanding front, offering consumers healthy alternatives to the ubiquitous junk food vending machines, exploiting the technology while rethinking completely the offer. FrescoFrigo, one of the first Italian projects of its kind, was born in Milan in 2018, initially focussing on offices, hotels, gyms, and on all those spaces shared by a community of people who spend a good part of their day away from home. The idea was to provide them with vending machines that sold fresh food designed to be consumed within two days of preparation and manageable by users via an app. With the pandemic, in the last year, everything changed. The lack of sociality - and of the places dedicated to cultivating it - led FrescoFrigo to rethink its core business: without prejudice to the quality of an offer devoted to health food, the smart refrigerators designed by Pandian diverted from the "out of the home" towards supporting domestic procurement.

From away from home to condo supermarket

So, in full lockdown, last spring the FrescoFrigo vending machines land in an unusual location, within the Milanese Social Village Cascina Merlata residential complex, to serve the nine hundred residents of the apartment complex, offering a sort of "condo supermarket" for home shopping, replenished daily in collaboration with the commercial businesses in the area, including fresh fruit and vegetables, smoothies and ready-made soups, meats, cheeses, milk and basic staples, such as bread, flour and eggs. With the app, buyers can choose the products clearly visible beyond the window, unlock the fridge, finalise the purchase through a payment system selected on the digital platform. Also thanks to this versatility of use, the startup is due to grow rapidly, climbing new markets, faithful to its corporate mission: "Improving a correct everyday lifestyle, through the sale of quality, fresh and healthy products, innovating technology and user experience," primarily involving users, who are asked to send their preferences by answering an anonymous online questionnaire ("What would you like to find in FrescoFrigo?").

Expansion of FrescoFrigo abroad

In January, the second round of investments was concluded, which brought to the coffers of FrescoFrigo – today led by CEO Giacomo Pastore, flanked by the President of the Board Pandian – 1.8 million euros thanks to the interest of institutions and private individuals, including Cdp Venture Capital Sgr. Now the idea is therefore to triple the presence in Milan – where there are currently around a hundred vending machines – and then grow throughout Italy, starting with Rome, Parma, Turin and Bologna. Abroad, however, the group's smart refrigerators are already present in the United Kingdom, Austria and the United States, with a total of two hundred units, of which the first installed in New York in 2019 (while London today is the foreign city that's better manned by FrescoFrigo, with 30 refrigerators); but the channel will be strengthened, alongside other international destinations in Europe (France and Switzerland) and the Middle East. The development plan is ambitious: by 2021 installations – managed in the company from the development of the hardware as well as the software, and includes placement by a specialised technician – will increase to over 500 units in five countries (France, Switzerland, Austria, UK and USA), in preparation of a third round of fundraising, on an international scale, scheduled for the end of the year. The goal for 2021 is therefore to reach one million in turnover. After all, in Enrico Pandian's history as a startupper, there are already successful projects, such as Supermercato24.

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