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Buy less - waste less! Food labels and digital tool that prevent you from buying more than you can eat.

Photo of Maryia Virshych
28 20

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To influence the whole chain it can be useful to affect the shopping habits of the customers, as our demand forms the offer. We now have huge refrigerators and are used to buy food once per week, often purchasing the goods that we won't be able to eat before the expiration date. If better organized we can plan the meals in advance and buy only what we need. This labeling system gives a customer a clue about how many dishes he or she can cook with these products.

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And the schedule-scheme on the shopping cart makes it easy to organize the menu for a family for a whole week.  

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For the "advanced" users - people who are already concerned with getting new shopping habits or those who just want to shop more efficiently - there is a digital addition to this system. A tool that keeps track of your shopping, suggests recipes from the products on your list, highlighting the ingredients that you've already planned to buy; gives tips on preserving food fresh, etc.

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*FoodIdeas is a web platform with recipes. It is used here as a reference and possible collaborator. Right now there is no agreement with this platform.

 This system can work as a part of a whole re-branding process of the store. For instance if the administration decides to try a more "conscious" strategy, with farm local products of high quality (and as a result higher prices) and less food waste, it could be a good addition as the regular customers would buy less and the higher prices wouldn't be that scary for them.

This short and probably idealistic story of one family and one store that decided to change their policy can illustrate the impact this system might have on forming new habits.

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     A family of four : Lucy, Marc, Tony and Jennifer go shopping all together this Sunday. They went to their regular next-door store. But noticed a slight difference...

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       A supermarket underwent some re-branding. The products seemed to be of better quality, a little more expensive, and those colorful labels everywhere! It became "conscious consumption" oriented, with local seasoned food and food waste reduce policy. 
      Normally, Marc and Lucy prefer to save money and don't buy into the "organic food hype", but as they were already here...

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    Marc grabbed two bags of bell peppers. He loves them so much! But the new labels made Lucy think how much of those do they really need.. Soon they both realized that one bag is more than enough as they don't stay fresh very long.

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     This is how little Tony also got his job.

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      The family went through their regular shopping list finding themselves in the debate from time to time, on what and how much are they actually going to cook this week.

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     Curios Jennifer couldn't help scanning the QR-code from the labels with her phone. She was redirected to the web platform offering her help in keeping track of her shopping and suggesting new dishes for the family. Jennifer's mom was so excited!

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     At the register Marc and Lucy were caught by surprise. Even though the prices were higher and the products apparently better than usually, they didn't exceed their regular cheque as they bought less this time.

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     At home Lucy kept surfing the platform, found some new recipes and useful suggestions to keep the food fresh. By the end of the week she realized that there's nothing stale in the fridge to through away. She also realized that usually there is...

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     Lucy has always been faster to catch on new technologies. Now her phone helps her plan her shopping and menu. 
     Her shopping list is saved online and QR-code on the labels keeps track on what she has already bought and what's left...

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    ...While Marc prefers to stay disconnected when he goes shopping. Labels, pie diagrams and a pen lead his way through the mall. 

This way or another they keep going to this store and recommend it to all their friends.

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

An experiment in the local supermarket can be tried, by giving the customers the planners and creating the menu with portions for some products (starting with fruits and vegetables)

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

The most helpful input would be some guidance from the economic point of view. It would be great to think of an economic model where the supermarkets can also benefit from incorporating this system.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am an architect and product designer. In my design works I follow the principles of responsible design, considering the whole life cycle of the products and how it can benefit the society as a whole as well as particular social groups. Nevertheless I try not to forget about aesthetics, I think elegant object creates a special attachment which is also a way to prolong its life.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

How far along is your idea?

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

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

This is a planning tool and a recipes book in one and right in the shopping mall. It gives a customer visual tips on how many dishes can be really cooked from the certain amount of food and how many of the dishes will be made during the week, without interfering too much in the regular shopping process of the customer.

How is your idea unique to the space?

I think the most distinctive feature of the project is the combination of physical and virtual planning tools. This allows to cover a larger selection of customers. The physical, "real" labeling systems can help people who usually don't plan their shopping very thoroughly. And for those who already try to shop more effectively there is a digital tool that will allow them to advance in it.

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

Supermarkets and food stores play a huge role in this process. If the supermarkets decide to embrace this system as a part of their policy it can be a huge step in shaping new, more responsible shopping habits. Another way to approach it is, as @Dimitri mentioned from the side of food producers and a regulation requiring them to put the portions chart on their products. But then I'm afraid it can get lost in all that information stated on the package,useful but never properly read.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

The impact can be measured by the comparison of the products sold during the given amount of time, considering that the number of customers stays the same. The level of engagement can be also measured by the online activity on the digital platform.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

The first stop would be finding a store that is willing to transform and collaborate. And integrate this planning tool into the holistic strategy.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Yazan Jarrah

Hello Maria,
Nice Idea.
I agree that supermarkets should play a major role in your project. However, you have to expect that they will not be willing to help because it is important for the supermarket to sell as higher quantities as possible. So I suggest having a plan B, which is partnering with the legistlative organisations.
Good luck!

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