From tracking consumer and industry trends, we brainstormed potential areas for improvement at each step food usage process. We identified a potential opportunity for a physical or digital product that manipulated the fridge environment to optimize the awareness of food items placed inside.
We initially centered our focus on families as they are the group that engage in grocery shopping the most. However, through the process of our interviews and observations, we came to the realization that the biggest source of food waste was not families; rather it was often people just moving into their first apartments or else just starting to grocery shop and don’t have the awareness and information needed to be conscious about their food waste. This led to narrowing our focus to young professionals and college students between the ages 20-27.
We spoke to people within our target age range as well as seasoned chefs who work with people within our target age range. As a result, we gained insights into the habits and attitudes of young adult homeowners towards their kitchens and could better understand how young adults optimize the space. Interviewing the chefs gave us practical insight into the mindset of efficient kitchens and allowed us to identify key areas of improvement.
We took pictures of various college student, graduate student, and young adult refrigerators to understand the thought processes and habits behind their food storage and organization. These pictures were compared with images taken of refrigerators managed by chefs in order to understand the most efficient and food safety conscious organization methods.
We were able to do a comparison between people who had difficulty managing their food waste (our target market), and people who had become adept at doing so through experience (seasoned chefs and busy professionals). This is what helped us realize that the lack of information and awareness is a key driver in food waste, at least, within our target market.
Leftovers, both home cooked and takeout, are a major source of waste. Bulk amounts of food can also easily lead to waste. In addition, optimizing kitchen space while maintaining food safety precautions can be a frustrating balance. Meat is supposed to be kept at the bottom of the fridge to avoid dripping and contaminating other food, but we saw most college fridges did not abide by this convention.
Transparency vs Awareness
This map compared a physical aspect, transparency, with a more enabling, intangible aspect, awareness. These two concepts are similar; in that, they assist the user in knowing what is going on with their food. We decided on these axes because we found that young adults have not yet found the balance between groceries and takeout and pack things into their fridges without thought. As a result, food gets wasted because people overbuy, lose food, or improperly store food. These axes will help us find a solution that increases their knowledge and will hopefully inform behavior.
Affordability vs. Tech Enabled
Given that these are young adults, affordability is a major parameter for our solution. In addition, because we live in a tech enabled world, utilizing technology offers a wider range of applications and ease of access to our users. Therefore, we hoped our solution would optimize both parameters so as to better accommodate our target group.
We began brainstorming by using a method where each group member ideates and sketches 4 new solution concepts in five minutes. After time expires, each paper is passed in a circle to a different team member who either improves the ideas or uses them to spark new ideas in another 5 minute interval. This process repeats until the original paper is back in the creator's hands. From this exercise, we were able to generate about 50 ideas that were then placed into 5 categories using affinity mapping.
Each team member then selected 1-2 ideas to keep from the list. This resulted in 7 final ideas.
We combined the Queue System and Rotating Shelves, since they yielded similar results and mutually enhanced each other. We eliminated LED lighting and mirroring and transparent fridge sides, because it was difficult to conceptualize placement of lighting and mirrors to optimize the fridge viewing experience such that it could fit any refrigerator. Also there is no guarantee that most the kitchen setups are conducive to making this a viable solution. If the sides are blocked, you can’t see the interior regardless of the transparency of the sides.
After discussing the final 4 ideas with people in the target age demographic, we found that they would be much more likely to adopt a digital solution. This led us to choosing to further develop the barcode scanner idea.
The barcode scanner app helps consumers optimize the use of their own food by keeping an active inventory of one’s fridge and providing notifications when food is likely to go bad soon. Once a user has shopped at a partnered grocery store, they can scan all of the newly purchased items using a QR code on the bottom of the receipt. If a user needs to input something manually, they can also scan the item’s barcode itself and manually inputting the expiration date information.
Once a user has scanned or entered in an item into the app, it gives suggestions on where to store it in the fridge based on proper storage practices and what else is currently in the fridge. For example, if a user buys produce and chicken and has a roommate, it suggests a spot where the chicken is below the produce while still keeping enough separation from the roommates stuff to stay organized. All of a user’s food items can be easily seen when the app is opened, and clicking the drop down menu allows the user to find all of the relevant data such as purchase date, expiration date, and where the food came from. Another feature of the app that optimizes food consumption is the ability to put something “Up for Grabs” in a shared fridge. This allows users to offer up their unwanted food items to their friends and coworkers easily, and giving the ability to request a food item in a shared space offers a solution to food stealing.
Prototyping began with a few preliminary sketches, and those were turned into more developed hand drawn concepts that were modeled after apps that our target demographic are familiar with such as Groupme and Snapchat. These were then used to create wireframes of several use cases.