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How To "Keep Fresh" Sign

Informational sign at grocery stores/markets that gives tips on food storage best practices for fresher, tastier, longer-lasting produce.

Photo of Neil Trivedi
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The Problem

Grocery stores and markets are great at telling you what you are buying, the cost of the product and if it's organic or not. Those little signs on the shelf with the produce are basic, easy to read - and most everyone at the very least glances at them before they pick up the fruit/vegetable and put it in their shopping cart.

However, when people leave the grocery store, how the produce is stored varies from household to household. I know friends who keep their potatoes out in the sun vs. the cool, dry, dark place (which is the best way, from what I've been told). Though all of the information of how to best store produce is out there on the internet, I hypothesize that not many people look up how to do it. 

This gap between available information and everyday habits leads to many fruits and vegetables going bad in people's fridges/pantries/shelves/etc! 

Solution: I propose that grocery stores and markets start providing an additional informational sign on food storage "best practices" adjacent to the sign that displays fruit/vegetable name and price. We'll call it a "Keep Fresh" sign.

While shoppers look at what they are about to buy and how much - they may learn some interesting facts on how to keep their produce last longer.


How the "Keep fresh" Sign Works

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The "Keep Fresh" sign would contain best practices in food storage for each item in the produce section. It would be displayed adjacent to the name and price tag of each item, so customers can see how to store their produce as they purchase it. 

  • For customers, the value-add of the sign is:
    1. Information they may have not known already
    2. Information they could use to help keep produce longer (and thereby reducing their own food waste)


  • For grocery stores / markets, the value-add of the sign is:
    1. Potential for “Ethics Branding” (e.g. “Our store cares about our produce even after it leaves our store,” “We care about food wastage”)
    2. Potential for customers to make more frequent trips to the store since customers will use produce more efficiently (e.g. proper storage will increase the visibility of produce, causing the consumer to use things before they go bad)


  • Since grocery stores have high repeat business – each time a customer would shop, they would see the sign, and be reminded of:
    1. The need to store food properly
    2. The desire to contribute to less food-wastage (if the sign is branded as such)


  • Over-time, the reinforced images of the sign would start to develop habit-changing behaviors through:
    1. A memory of the sign prompting  a call to action to look up “best practices” of food storage when the customer arrives at home
    2. The practice of storing produce properly each week, will start to become the new norm and a new habit of proper food storage will develop (hopefully with a global food conservation mindset)


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A phased approach

Upon discussing the idea and receiving feedback from peers, the OpenIDEO community and doing further research – it was concluded that a how to "keep fresh" sign was the first step of what could be a full end-to-end customer experience in food spoilage prevention. A phased approach of  the “evolution” of this idea is: 

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Each phase would build upon the previous phase, but would add time and complexity to execution. Each phase eliminates certain customer frictions from the previous phase, however we believe that each phase has value on its own! 


Phase 2 - The "Keep Fresh" App                                     
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Based on feedback we received, the need for customers to take the information they see at the grocery store/market into their home, was essential.


To address the information gap, we propose an application: the “Keep Fresh” app. 


Key features would include:
  • Ability to make grocery lists within the app (with the option of voice recognition to input items). When consumers go to the grocery store they can use the app to check things off their list. The app will know what date an item is checked off and will start to track an estimated shelf life from that date.
  • Image recognition capture – if a consumer goes to the store and buys something not on the list, they can just put their phone over the item (fruit/vegetable) and the app will recognize what fruit/vegetable they purchased and add it to the list (eliminating manual entry)
  • A push notification, when grocery shopping is completed, to inform the customer "how to best store your items". 
  • Push notifications to check when produce may be going bad and how to check if it is already spoiled


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PHASE 3 - THE "Keep Fresh" SMART FRIDGE / PANTRY 

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Based on our customer mapping for the application, and further research on technology changing how we store food, we realized that we could refine the food storage process to enhance the accuracy of when food starts to spoil.

In the future, we could incorporate technology that is currently being built and tested, for “smart fridges” and “smart pantries”, into our food storage journey.

Key features include:

  • Ability for refrigerators and pantries to use image recognition software to see what you put into the fridge and when you put it. 
  • Sensors located in your pantry and fridge that detect when gases begin to emit from your produce – signaling when items are beginning to spoil (but still consumable)
  • Push notifications that connect to the "Keep Fresh" app on your phone that remind you to use the produce before it spoils beyond the ability to safely consume it
  • Recipes that can be found on the "Keep Fresh" app that are curated for you, based on what you have in your fridge/pantry.


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Prototyping & Feedback

We tested a basic prototype of the sign at the local San Francisco farmer’s market to see if/how customers reacted to it (special thanks to Kelly at Groundswell Farm for letting me work alongside to test the sign!):

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Feedback we heard: 

  • Displaying the information on storage tips was unique
  • Some customers learned new things
  • Some customers reacted with affirmation, already storing produce correctly
  • Customers engaged with us!


How can we improve:

  • Better the design of the signs, for more customer engagement
  • Keep testing the signs to see if repeat customers started to change habits
  • Find a way to track data to see if customers are in fact wasting less food


How we can scale the idea:

  • Starting locally, collecting data and seeing what positive effects come out the implementation of a sign are key to building a business case for additional markets/stores/vendors to put an informational sign out.
  • With the implementation of an app, more people can start to implement "best practices" in food storage even if their respective market/store does not provide the sign on their own. 

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

We tested a sign at a farmer's market vendor to see if customers reacted and what that reaction was. Happy to say it was a positive reaction! Further testing and data gathering would be needed to see if habits start to change and if food waste is being reduced. In addition, testing at different locations (supermarkets, local stores) would be needed to get a better sample size and to see how customers pay attention/interact with the signs. We would also conduct surveys to improve the design.

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

1) Guidance on sign design - If not designed properly, these signs run the risk of not being seen by the shopper, or being too busy and thus having the shopper glaze over the sign 2) Guidance on the phrasing of instructions - The words on the sign should be both informative and convincing. People's habits are hard to change, but with the right messaging, they may start to follow the proper rules on food storage 3) Guidance on UX design for the app

Tell us about your work experience:

I work in the business strategy division of a financial institution, working on a variety of projects including organization design, organizational governance and process re-engineering. Worked with design thinking to formulate processes that would translate to a better customer and employee experience. Love the work I do, though sometimes my mind dreams about being a chef.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • 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?

Simply put: its a sign at the grocery store that teaches people how to store their produce properly so their produce is tastier and lasts longer.

How is your idea unique to the space?

Currently - grocery stores (and farmer's markets) do not provide this information to consumers. It is up to consumers to look up on their own, without any reminder, how to store their produce.

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

Some key relationships to build in order to make this successful: - Grocery Store management - Farmers Markets - Communication Designers - Local governments

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

"Buy-in" from all parties involved (grocery stores, farmers, customers) is key. The more "buy-in" we from various stores/markets to implement the sign, the more successful we will feel! If the application is built - better and more advanced data can be gathered to see if habits are truly changing and food is not being wasted.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

Work with the local farmer's markets to see if they would be willing to implement "keep fresh" signs. Get in touch with local grocery stores to start to understand what reasons exist for not already having this sign, and start to develop a business case for using the sign. Get in touch with a communications designer - see how to make the sign more effective.

32 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
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Photo of Samu Puskás
Team

Extremely good idea! Regarding the 3rd phase in particular that suggests a smart fridge opportunity that can seriously and easily be the not so distant future of refrigerators.
Especially if the fridge just a few days before the expiry day sends you a little notification reminding you to consume the product. Maybe it can find connection with some cooking applications or online sites so within the notification it can suggest 5-6 healthy and easy to make recipes that include the product in question:)
This way the user is encouraged to live it up in a friendly, helpful way.
Once again, really good job, congratulations!

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Photo of Jessie Dong
Team

Hi Neil,  it is a great idea to have a "keep fresh" sign at grocery store. It will be a bit of work to set up, but later on both the stores and customers will gain benefit from it. I think it is important to make sure that the storage tips are giving the correct information based on the location and weather of cities. 
The app idea is also great. The only challenge is to input all the shopped items into the app. It could be a time consuming task after a big shopping trip. 

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Hi Jessie Dong , 

Agreed - the storage tips could vary for both location and time of year. I think with the app, this could be easily solved since your phone would know your location, weather details, etc.; and can refine the storage tips based on this information.

Regarding the difficultly of inputting all the items into the app, we tried to address this by suggesting both voice recognition and image recognition for inputting items. 

Thanks again for your feedback!

Best,
Neil

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Photo of Katie Eyles
Team

Just a note on voice recognition - best to think about where the app will be used. I've recently done some user research on a voice-input device (with older users, though, aged 65-75), and they don't really feel comfortable talking to a device when there is no other human or at least feedback involved. Certainly while out of the home, and also even while in the home it can make them feel a bit silly.  

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Photo of Yuexi
Team

Quite comprehensive and practical idea! Well done! Especially the app idea. If the app would include not only storage information but also recipe of how to use surplus foods make a quick consumed meal, it might attract more customers to use your app I guess.  All the best! Good luck!

Regards,
Yuexi    

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Thanks Yuexi ! Appreciate the feedback.

Best,
Neil

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

This is a great practical idea!  Thanks for sharing it Neil.  I have received different information from family and friends about this topic over the years.  It would be great to have a source of information that would be considered "expert."  
Also - Supermarkets hand out flyers with their weekly specials and coupons.  I wonder if they might add some tips in that space.  Maybe they would like this idea as it might bring attention to, and encourage customers to buy that particular item that week?   Just thinking of ways to encourage the market to post this information.

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Thanks for the feedback Bettina Fliegel ! We started to think about value-add reasons for markets to post the information as well. Building a business-case for markets to post the sign is key to get wide-spread adoption.

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Photo of Kyla
Team

I really like this idea because it is a simple and easy way for people to reduce food waste.  It might take more time for the grocery store to research the best storage options but it will not cost extra for the buyer or the store.  I think people will definitely take the advice of the best way to store there food because I can imagine the majority of people will not go out of there way to research each item in their kitchen and how to store it best.  One question I have is how do you plan to design the sign in order to make people want to read it.  Many people when they go shopping are usually just grabbing everything fast.  I do think your idea of having the food facts next to the price is a very smart idea because people are very concerned with price and maybe while they are looking at the price a word in those facts will catch their attention.  I also like Michelle Leung's comment where people should have take home labels because with all our busy lives we have so much going on and probably by the time we get home we might forget the facts.  I would imagine many people might take a photo with their phones to solve this issue of forgetting but not all of us want that take up our photo storage and then having to search for the photo later on.  Maybe this sticker idea could turn universal to all stores where someone creates an app and the stickers could be scanned so when the people get home they just need to scan the label and it could tell them all the needed fruit facts versus using paper pamphlets that are wasteful and easily lost.

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Hi Kyla ,

Thanks for the feedback! We took into account some of the items that both you and Michelle (and others) addressed about making sure the facts about food storage are able to go home with the customers. Let us know what you think about the app idea we posted! Would love to hear further feedback!

Best,
Neil

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Photo of Amber Matthews
Team

What if it was a food label instead of a sign? That way, people can have indicators at home.

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Hi Amber Matthews ,

Thanks for the suggestion! We also thought about the food labels - but implementation of these food labels on each item of produce may be difficult.

Thank you for bringing up the need for people to have indicators at home. To address this we thought the mobile app would be the best way to address. Would love to know what you think! 

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Photo of Melat Assefa
Team

Such a cool idea! You could even start an info-graph movement on how to store fruits and vegetables! Looking forward to seeing the results of this project. Best of luck! 
Melat 

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Thanks Melat Assefa !

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Photo of Michael Wells
Team

e@Neil Trivedi Hello, I was reading through your idea and I realized something. This is an idea that I've never thought about before. I think it's extremely innovative in the grocery store market. Putting a "Keep Fresh" sign next to every item seems a bit tedious, but I feel it could save a lot of wasted food. When you think about it, a good majority of the food that's thrown away is in our homes. Food goes bad, so people toss it. Whether it starts to discolor, smell bad and even taste bad, its not edible anymore in the eyes of most Americans. With that in mind, I think every grocery store should have these signs. I can tell you from my experience working for Hannaford that those signs would come in handy for a lot of people. I was asked many times what the best way for storing certain food items was and I'll tell you this, I had no idea. Even though I worked there, I had no clue. Besides the way my parents stored the food in my own home. Not only would it help customers, but it would help the store. Maybe it would allow people who normally are picky, to be able to buy items they wouldn't typically buy. I like the phased approach that you have presented. The first step is simple, convincing grocery stores or farmers markets to implement a sign that helps customers learn how to store their food. The second step will need a lot more research and support. To create a app is the easy part, getting people to use it is the hard part. Maybe when you produce the "Keep Fresh" signs, include a section that just says, "Check out our app 'Keep Fresh'", or something like that. A way for the customers to know that they can easily keep track of their food and remember how to store it. Also, I like the "smart fridge" thought that your refrigerator can have wifi and you can interact with it, so it tells you when food is about to spoil. That technology seems like it's far away, but it is being worked on so it could be a possibility. Not only is this an amazing idea, it is extremely simple. Anyone who can read and has access to a phone and internet can help the food wastage problem!

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Hi Michael Wells ,

Really appreciate the kind words and feedback! I agree that getting people to use the app could be difficult - which is why I think having both a physical reminder of what the best practices of food storage + an app that has a value-prop on its own would be key!

Regarding the "smart fridge" - we may not be so far away from these items. Check out this article:
http://news.mit.edu/2012/fruit-spoilage-sensor-0430

Thanks again for the feedback!

Best,
Neil

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Photo of Maria Paula Machado
Team

Amazing idea and work Neil, you are creating awareness and a huge first step of adoption for the people who doesn't know how to keep fresh the food through the sign with useful information, also you are creating value for all the stakeholders. keep it up with the idea.

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Thank you for the very kind words Maria Paula Machado . And thank you again for all the help you provided to us in bringing this 1-day old idea into a more refined idea in less than 2 weeks!

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Photo of Richard
Team

Include flyer that can be picked up in produce section that gives suggestions on how to store and remove spoiled parts without throwing everything away.  Shoppers need something to take home with the information on it.   Or provide website that is a resource for storing and dealing with partially spoiled or imperfect food.

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Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Welcome to the Refinement phase Neil! We've added new Refinement questions to your original submission that we'd love for you to answer. Please check out the Refinement Phase Toolkit for instructions on how to answer the new questions and other recommendations we encourage all idea teams to consider in the upcoming weeks.

Refinement Phase Toolkit: http://ideo.pn/2du9sf7

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 09/28" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

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Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Neil, we updated the link to the Refinement Toolkit. Please use this new link instead: https://d3gxp3iknbs7bs.cloudfront.net/attachments/bda1f109-0466-4f8e-9699-1359e406df56.pdf

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Photo of Izoel Aguiar
Team

Good idea!, but it's better when complemented with Kyla's idea to add a QRCODE to the sign identifying  the general product and connect with an app that can show some of this information, that way the label is not that big and the information is easy to view.

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Photo of Ezgi Sengun
Team

I like Kyla 's idea in regards to an app. Even if you have a barcode that could be scanned which saves to the app would be convenient, not only could you look up the items barcode that you scanned but also have a search option for other products the user could search. 

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Photo of Alexandra Branzuela17
Team

I think this is a great idea! I like that something as simple as a sign could help people prevent food waste.  Something to think of, is that many people may not focus on how to store vegetables while shopping, because like Kyla mentioned, many individuals are in a rush at the supermarket. I think the survey idea is a good way to see if this would benefit people, but I suggest not only going to a farmers market, but other indoor supermarkets because people who shop at farmers markets and those who shop at supermarkets may have different opinions on how their produce is handled and may care more or less about the quality of their goods. A question I have is how do you plan to convince supermarkets to put these signs in their stores--many supermarkets may benefit in profit by having people needing to constantly repurchase produce due to their short shelf life. Is there another, more effective way you can spread information about storing produce to people?  

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Photo of Michelle Leung
Team

Hi Neil!

I like the simplicity of your idea. It's very feasible for markets and doesn't come at a cost of the customer or the market. People have already mentioned that it would be hard for people to remember what produce needs to be stored where/how.

I think one way to fix this is by having more general signs in one area that are bigger and attract more attention. For example, there could be a sign for similar produce like citrus fruits that says how they should be stored. Then there could be another for leafy greens and how they should be stored. The signs could go in the general section of the shelfs where a type of food is. This could more more memorable than a small label by every individual item.

Another idea is, since most produce has those little stickers, those stickers could be color coded to indicate how they should be stored. For example, produce that needs to be stored in dark, cool places could have a yellow sticker, and food that can't be refrigerated could have a red sticker. Then, either at checkout or in the produce section, there could be a small guide handout/mini flyer that indicates what the colors mean. I think they should be handed out at the cashier to make sure people know what they are for. These flyers should be small to save paper, just a little 4x6 card or something similar. This will also assure that the customers actually pay attention to it. The cashier could also reiterate what the label means if he sees that a customer is getting produce. 

These are just some suggestions you could take into consideration. Nice work though! It sounds very doable!

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Photo of Vanessa Shaw
Team

Hi Neil Trivedi That's a great question.  A few ideas - what assumptions are you making?  I believe the assumption is people don't know how to care for produce.  That if they had signs to remind them and educate them it would influence their behavior.  So let's explore those two items:

- Does having instructions of how to care for produce influence people's behaviors?
- Do people already know how to care for produce effectively?

A few ways to keep it small:
- Could you start with yourself?  Could you put these labels in your own refrigerator and take note of how often it influenced your own behavior?  
- Can you start with just 1-2 items? for example make labels on Spinach and/or Apples

Defining what to Measure and what metrics to monitor is always important and I can't say that I'm the best at it, but I believe an easy one that usually appeals is $ money savings.  For example how much is paid per apple, and how many apples do you throw out per week or month because they have gone bad before being consumed. 

There are other elements to explore but perhaps this gives you a few ideas to start with.  Best of luck!! and keep on keeping on! - Vanessa @humansideoftech on twitter if you'd like to keep connected.

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Photo of Olivia Paquette
Team

I enjoyed your comparison between available information and convenient information. Our generation doesn’t take advantage of all the information on the internet. People don't educate themselves on food waste the way they should.
The only problem with making “How to Keep Fresh” signs on the shelves is people will often forget by the time they get home. People buy so many items they wouldn't be able to remember more than a few of them. Plus, people get in the habit of just grabbing stuff off the shelves after they've bought it multiple times. A way to fix this would be putting the signs directly on the packages. Now there's no excuse not to take full advantage of the labels.
The labels can consists of information about where the food will stay fresh the longest. Example: “To keep a bunch of bananas fresh for longer, wrap the stems in some plastic wrap. Re-cover the bananas with the wrap after removing one. This method prevents ethylene gas, produced naturally in the ripening process, from reaching other parts of the fruit and prematurely ripening it.” Wilgubeast. "Keep Bananas Fresh Longer (slices, Too!)." Instructables.com. N.p., 07 Dec. 2012. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.
These labels can also include a use by date, and a donate by date. People often realize when they won't be able to use food before it expires but hold on to it anyways. Now they will know when they have to donate it in time for someone else to use it.
I hope my observations are helpful, Olivia.

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Hi Olivia Paquette ,

Really appreciate the feedback and observations! I agree that it will be hard for people to remember what the sign said by the time they got home. I do like the label idea for some products that are in packages (e.g. a box of berries), but I don't know how pragmatic it could be for loose produce. 

In addition, the implementation of the labels could be an extra challenge, there would have to be "buy-in" from both grocery stores and distributors of the food - and it would be an extra expense to whichever party  has to do the extra labeling. 

Please let me know any further thoughts! Really helpful! 

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Photo of Vanessa Shaw
Team

Hi Neil Trivedi I love this idea because I like to learn new things and be informed of how I can manage my food use/waste.  These small signs seem low cost.  Do you think you could contact a local supermarket to run a small experiment, or try a small deli or small family run business that would be willing to explore this micro-experiment? 

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Hi Vanessa Shaw 

Thanks for the feedback/encouragement! I was definitely thinking this idea could be tested at a local supermarket or even a farmer's market vendor. Would love to hear some of your thoughts on how to gather data from a micro-experiment like this.

 

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Photo of Neil Trivedi
Team

Thanks for the head's up! I certainly wanted to publish it!

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Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Great to have you onboard! We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.