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Chrono Foods

A grocery store to reimagine the relationship between people and about to expire food. How might we instead create a community around it ?

Photo of Akshay
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According to the Journal Of Consumer Affairs the retail stores wasted a total of 43 billion pounds in 2008, equivalent to 10 percent of the total food supply at the retail level.  There are several reasons why grocery stores tend to waste a lot of food. Industry executives and managers viewvappropriate waste as a sign that a store is meeting quality control and full-shelf standards, meaning that blemished items are removed and shelves are fully stocked (Source: Harvard Business Review N9-012-022).

We have identified several key reasons why food at grocery stores is thrown away well before their expiration date.

1. In an effort to ensure freshness to consumers, retail stores donate or throw food away when they are past their sell by date(sometimes well before the sell by date) which is usually well before their use by date.  Sometimes the food pantries cannot accept large quantities of donations due to lack of the storage space so a lot more food gets thrown away in the compost bin

2. Most of the times, grocery stores throw away perfectly good supplies due to damaged packaging, promotional products that don't get sold on time or any new products introduced by the grocery store that don't sell.  A lot of fresh produce also get's thrown away because it looks "ugly"

3. A lot of prepared food at the grocery stores gets thrown away due to strict food temperature regulation laws. After few hours if the food doesn't get consumed it is either thrown away or given to the food pantry who freeze the food and store it

4. Most of the grocery stores price the goods the same regardless of their sell by date . This motivates the consumers to purchase food that has longer sell by date which in turn leads to a lot more food waste. Thanks @Tojin Eapen for pointing us to this insight.

Chrono Foods is a viable business solution to the losses faced by grocery stores on a regular basis due to food waste. Chrono Foods proposes to buy about to expire food (according to sell by date) from grocery stores and other sources at a cheaper price and sell them to consumers in an environment that they can trust. We have reimagined grocery stores as community spaces where people can cook together, learn to make new recipes from ugly foods and about to expire foods. This would create awareness about importance of food waste in the communities. This will also allow people to buy groceries they need to consume in the next few days at a much cheaper price than regular grocery stores because Chrono Food provides dynamic pricing of groceries according to their sell by dates.The grocery store has four color coded shelves. Each color represents how close the groceries on that shelf are to their sell by dates. Each color has a fixed discount on all the items on that shelf. 

The idea originated from a meetup by OpenIDEO Boston

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We are going to start out as a food truck that goes around communities selling the about to expire food we purchased from grocery stores. We are also going to do pop up barbecues, make yummy recipes made by celebrity chefs and get the community excited to be a part of the Chrono Foods family.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would love to receive feedback and mentorship from amazing people at OpenIDEO and get connected to some chefs who would be interested in our little experiment. The prize would be a great way to get started!

Tell us about your work experience:

We are group of nerdy engineers who love creating products that provide great user experience.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An OpenIDEO Outpost or Chapter

How far along is your idea?

  • It’s just been created! It’s existed for 1 day - 1 month


Join the conversation:

Photo of Niki Ramchandani

This is a great idea! You may also want to consider having food that expire quicker be priced lower, as detailed in this post "Dynamic prices for perishables" "( This could be a good way to make people want to shop there!

Photo of Akshay

That's a great suggestion...Thanks

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Manvitha Ponnapati

Thank you!

Photo of Jacob Schual-Berke

Really interesting idea! I was just at a grocery store this morning that had a section for foods nearing their expiry date, and people were flocking to it, so there could definitely be interest. But I'm wondering if it might be a herculean task to constantly rearrange the items in the entire store. Do you have any ideas to do so efficiently and cost effectively?

Photo of Aaryaman Singhal

This is an interesting idea. I know I would be interested in buying foods that would get wasted otherwise and most people might if they are a little cheaper. 

To throw out an idea to answer Jacob's question, maybe design the grocery store as a circle. For simplicity, let's say the circle is a hexagon with 6 shelves where people can buy food. 

On day 1, you stock shelf 1 and put a label on it that says the food expires in 6 days. 
On day 2, you stock shelf 2 and put a label on it that says the food expires in 6 days. You change the label on shelf 1 to say the food on it expires in 5 days. 
On day 3, you stock shelf 3 and put a label on it that says the food expires in 6 days. You change the labels on shelves 1 and 2 to say the food on them expires in 4 and 5 days respectively. 
Keep doing this until all shelves are stocked. 
On day 7, your food from day 1 is expired and replaced with new food. The new label on this shelf says the food expires in 6 days. The other shelves are also updated. 

With this model, people always walk sequentially around the circle, but start in a different place depending on the day they come to the store. 

The model I explained here is an over simplification to help explain the concept. In real life, there would be some challenges like
1) Food doesn't often expire in an exact number of days.
2) Even the same type of food put on the shelf on the same day might expire in different amounts of time

Photo of Manvitha Ponnapati

That's an interesting idea! We were also toying with the idea of buying about to expire food from grocery stores at a cheaper cost and moving it into a different space for sale. This way we can help grocery stores save shelf space. Maybe it will even be possible to build upon this and provide a community food resale center/storage.