OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

The Beautiful Butter Theory

Will users choose a plastic-free, aesthetically pleasing butter pat over one that's in a small plastic container?

Photo of Jane Lien
6 3

Written by

This is an experiment to see if people will treat a food item more preciously if it is presented in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. Food establishments often use prepackaged butter as a way to easily serve customers AND portion the butter, so there is reduced food waste (and cost). However, it is at the cost of more plastic waste. 

The theory is that users may use less butter if it is aesthetically pleasing. On many occasions, items that are well crafted and/or crafted from quality materials receive better care. If less butter is used, there is more of an argument for "well crafted" butter pats to be used, instead of the plastic packets of butter. 

Idea Title

The Beautiful Butter Theory

Where are you / your team located?

Detroit, Michigan, USA

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

Instead of using unrecyclable small format plastic to serve butter pats, food establishments can use small reusable plates to serve aesthetically pleasing butter pats. The molded butter pats could come in a larger container that would either be recyclable or compostable.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Carmen, Hotel Owner in Mexico City, Mexico

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

non-region specific

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Are there other food items that could be redesigned and then repackaged?

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

First, research needs to be conducted to prove this theory. If the theory is correct, more research could be conducted into how this product redesign could be mass manufactured and distributed. It would also be great to look into how this idea can apply in other food packaging situations.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Team brainstorm

Tell us about your work experience

I have over 10 years of design experience, with two years of experience in the entrepreneurship space as a startup co-founder. Currently working as a UX designer at a large company.

6 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Rhiannon Hunt
Team

This is such a beautiful idea. I can imagine hotels and restaurants asking for butter in the shape of their logo! Could the butter be delivered in reusable moulds, which could be returned to the supplier on the next delivery maybe?

Spam
Photo of Jane Lien
Team

Rhiannon Hunt Oooo I like that idea! Thanks!!

Spam
Photo of Soren null
Team

This is a brilliant idea! There is absolutely no (or very little) aesthetic quality in (most) single use packaging! The Beautiful Butter Theory should be tested! Perhaps in some restaurants? A big barrier is to get people to appreciate aesthetics over convenience (also on a daily basis)!

Spam
Photo of Jill Petersen
Team

I agree! The majority of restaurants I have worked for have been very "bottom-line" focused, and I have a gut feeling that "Beautiful Butter" theory could actually cut down on costs, especially if the focus is on large-format packaging to reduce plastic; once proven, it might be easy promote widespread adoption. Plus, with the introduction of instagram, many restaurants are looking for little ways to make their product more beautiful. The biggest weakness in the project brief for me would be the lack of more specific applications beyond butter. E.G could the same ideas be applied to jam packets? Disposable towelettes? Single use sugar packages?

Spam
Photo of Jane Lien
Team

Thanks for your comment! Yes, I am planning to test this. I was going to try it at my office (which is not a restaurant) by offering butter and toast with a different variation on each day, but maybe a restaurant would be willing to try it out!

Spam
Photo of Jane Lien
Team

Jill, that's great to hear that your experience working at restaurants supports this theory. I love the perspective, too, that it would be more Instagram worthy! I agree it would be good to have some ideas regarding scalability of this concept beyond butter. Off the top of my head, sugar cubes would be one condiment that easily lends itself to "beautification". Heart shaped sugar, anyone? It might be a bit more complex to apply this to other condiments though. I'll have to think about it some more.