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Tiered price produce marketplace (Updated additional refinement questions)

Open up different price points (tiers) for fresh produce based on appearance and age

Photo of Angel Landeros
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Supermarkets normally have a single price for each type of produce.  What if people could choose cheaper options of the same produce because it is less fresh or looks less than premium (some blemishes, scratches, etc.).

"...U.S. supermarkets generally reject produce that doesn't meet their standards for appearance or earn top U.S. Department of Agriculture grades, leading to waste. The U.S. trashes about a third of its food supply, according to USDA estimates. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental action group, calculates food waste at 40%..." Source 

Supermarkets could have a discount produce section where less pretty, slightly damaged or very ripe items could be sold at a discount price.  The produce could be pre-bagged, and/or pre-cut to make it more convenient for the consumer.  It might be an economically attractive offer for:

1. Budget conscious people

2. People that might need the produce to make something that doesn't depend on the appearance of the food

3. People that are looking for something that could be eaten right away so they are not concerned with shelf life

The supermarket could squeeze more out of their fresh produce instead of throwing it out and people might save some cash given additional options.  If it works, we would also start changing perceptions on what is OK just based on its looks.


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

We could ask a local market to test out the idea and see if they sell some of the produce that would otherwise be discarded and calculate the savings or additional earning generated.

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

The complexity I see is in how to charge people the right price for the discounted produce to avoid abuse (people putting "premium" produce with the discounted items). How could I get around this? I also think it is about changing paradigms and perceptions, who could porvide experience in how to change peoples parameters of what is acceptable

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a Chemical engineer at a large CPG company.

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?

Imagine you go to the supermarket, and you have a chance to buy some delicious produce for a lower cost. It might not be as pretty but will taste just as good as the most expensive stuff. You would be able to buy all the tasty fruits and vegetables you were looking for and have some more money left over afterwards, doesn’t that sound like a good deal?

How is your idea unique to the space?

My idea is focusing on optimizing the existing supply chain for perishable goods in supermarkets. The proposal should require minimal effort and investment by the supermarket and it should improve their revenue, turning waste into profit. It doesn’t require a major cultural shift by every consumer. Culture change is facilitated at the point of sale, making it transparent.

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

I need to have good relationships with the different store managers and store employees that will need to share my vision and be patient to communicate, adjust and improve on the idea to make it successful.

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

Start with a baseline: How much does the store spend on food waste disposal and/or how many tons are sent to disposal. I can focus on one or two specific products to make it easier to track. Implement the project taking into account: 1. Additional time needed to move and prep the recovered produce 2. Pricing point that we expect to provide some profit margin vs. disposal cost. 3. Track improvement after modifying any variable to tease out the impact

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

If the super market I’m I contact with is interested, I would try a real life prototype to confirm if the idea works and is profitable


Join the conversation:

Photo of Manik

Thank you for your contribution Angel!
It is indeed rather shocking that food wastage is even prominent in places where it can be avoided with very simple, yet effective measures.
In this case of food wastage due to "ugly" and "not perfectly shaped" fruits and vegetables being rejected by retailers, it is important to encourage a diversification in sales. In a way it would mirror the market principles of segmentation, offering consumers options based on their preferences. 
There is no "one customer", hence I believe that the idea to separately sell "special" food, with added financial incentives, is one that just awaits implementation in order to be successful.

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