A pair of Wharton graduate students have developed a new ice cream brand that is now carried in 500 stores across Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
MBA students Vedant Saboo and Mike Weber founded the ice cream brand, Frutero, in May 2019. The students teamed up to sell tropical fruit-flavored ice cream inspired by Indian, Southeast Asian, and Latin American fruits. Frutero offers five signature flavors: guanabana, coconut, guava, passion fruit, and mango. A box of four eight-ounce containers retails for $20, according to the Frutero website.
Saboo said he met Weber when they were assigned to sit next to each other on the first day of class in 2018. The two connected because of their shared passion for entrepreneurship, and Saboo approached Weber about starting a business together in November 2018.
"We had similar interests in starting our own businesses while we were pursuing our MBA," Saboo said. "We started seeing each other in very similar entrepreneurial courses."
The next month, Weber went on a Wharton trip to India, where Saboo is originally from. There, Saboo recommended that Weber taste the fruit-flavored tropical ice cream that was a huge phenomenon in the country. After Weber returned to the United States, the pair decided to create their own version of the product, testing flavors in Saboo's kitchen with recipes his mother sent from India.
Saboo and Weber said when they first started their business, they visited stores and restaurants with backpacks full of samples to speak to managers and convince them to try their product. Weber rode around on his bike to deliver ice cream and talk to customers as part of Frutero's "Philly Delivery" service, which has since been taken over by GoPuff. Now, Frutero is carried by major retailers such as 7-Eleven and Old Nelson Food Company.
The founders said customer feedback is an important part of their development process — before launching the product, Saboo said, the pair recruited their classmates to blind-sample Frutero ice cream and compare it with other supermarket brands.
"We had to get enough data for us to see what people like [and] what people don't like," Saboo said. "With the Wharton students we found a nice, diverse community — people from different areas, people from different regions, people from a lot of tropical regions, some knowing the fruit, some not knowing the fruit. We had a very diverse set of tasters."
They also hold taste tests in supermarkets to let customers try out their products.
“They stand out because they go after these new flavors,” Wharton MBA student Ryan Morgan said. “But it’s not just the flavors. The taste and the overall quality is just really good.”
The young company has faced setbacks, including the closure of Little Baby's Ice Cream, where it previously manufactured its ice cream. Little Baby's previously had a branch in Franklin's Table on Penn's campus, which closed earlier this year.
Weber and Saboo still hope to expand both their collection of flavors and the geographical reach of Frutero, focusing initially on Florida and New York. Following their graduation this spring the pair plans to split up, with Saboo staying in the Northeast and Weber moving to the South to increase their reach.
“I think there’s a lot of us who are big fans," Morgan said. "This isn’t just me. This is a real movement."
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