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Ackerman: FreshDirect Built Block by Block

NEW YORK — The people behind FreshDirect built the online grocer by marketing it building by building in Manhattan, said co-founder Jeff Ackerman, who received the marketer of the year award at yesterday's DMD New York Conference & Expo.

FreshDirect is among the first prosperous online groceries, an industry that has a history of big ideas but few success stories. DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen, who presented the award to Ackerman, said direct-to-consumer groceries are now “huge” growth areas for direct marketing.

FreshDirect's debut offer was a get “50 in groceries free” promotion, Ackerman said in his acceptance speech. The company marketed the offer to individual buildings in Manhattan, expanding block by block and building a pre-launch registration base.

“It created a buzz about itself,” he said.

Today, more than 30 percent of Manhattan households have used FreshDirect. The company has built a database of 100,000 customers since its launch in 2002. The next challenge is to build on those relationships, Ackerman said.

Ackerman's award was followed by a speech by Al Roker, co-host and weatherman on NBC's morning show “Today.”

“One of the great things about being a direct company is that we know what everybody is doing,” Ackerman said. “If anyone wants to know what is in Al's refrigerator, we know.”

During his lunch speech, Roker acknowledged that he uses FreshDirect.

“I have an order coming today between 4 and 6 [o'clock],” Roker said. “My children are thrilled about it because they get to play with the boxes afterward.”

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