Reducing food waste with Design Thinking

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the 33% of all food every year gets wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production through household consumption.

In this case study we used the design thinking process to find possible solutions to this emerging problem of our times.


How might we reduce food waste on a household level, while maintaining or even expanding the culinary standards in quality and nutrition?

Problem evaluation


Is the problem human centred?

This initiative of food waste reduction tries to address a real human/ humanity problem. Thus the problem we are trying to solve is human centred and could potentially be solved following the design thinking process.


Is the problem too easy to solve/ is the solution obvious?

The solution to food waste reduction is not obvious. There are many possible ways to approach this problem and many angles we should take into account before committing to a solution, so the design thinking process could be beneficial to this initiative.


What is the level of uncertainty and/ or complexity for this project?

As the solution of this problem is not obvious and there are many angles to take into account, the uncertainty and complexity level for this project is high.


Is collecting, framing and structuring of data required and/ or recommended for this project. If so, why?

Collecting, framing and structuring of data is required to discover the real nutritional needs, the waste that occurs and how aware is the population about the current situation.


How might we reduce food waste, while still keeping food safe for the consumers and allow the grocery chain to generate a profit by implementing our solution?


Michaela Müller
The young professional

Michaela is at her early 30, lives in Berlin alone in a two rooms apartment, works in tech and is environmental conscious. She worries about her diet & tries to eat healthy, but doesn't have enough time to prepare food.

Main objectives:

  • Michaela orders delivery at least 3 times per week and she eats out at least 1 time per week.
  • She likes to invite friends over for dinner or on weekends, and she likes to try new cuisine
  • She spends around €75 per week in grocery and around €120 for food delivery.
  • Budgeting of the new solution would also be an issue for her, she would like to pay the same amount (around €200 per week) for food.

Main painpoints:

lack of time to prepare meals, fixed budget for grocery

Leo Eichmann
The activist

Leo is at his early 40, and is an activist against global warming. He lives with his girlfriend, works as a designer and travels a lot to participate in diverse demonstrations and protests for a better world.

Main objectives:

  • Leo worries about the planet and is willing to invest some time to help if possible
  • He takes care of a balanced diet, however it is difficult for him to cook his own meals, as he spends a lot of time on the road.
  • He is open to new flavours, but what he really cares about is how his food is produced and what kind of nutritients he gets from each meal.
  • He spends around €100 per week in grocery and around €150 for restaurants
  • He would be willing to support an environmental friendly solution against food waste, and he would be a great advocate.
  • He would be willing to pay more, as long as the solution is sunstaible and the food healthy

    Main painpoints:

    lack of time, difficulty to find environmental friendly solutions when on the road

    Betty Müller
    The housewife

    Betty is at her early 60, housewife with no income of her own. Her children just moved out of the house and she is looking for a way to reduce food waste in her own home and also cook a bit less now that she is left alone with her husband

    Main objectives:

    • Betty is not environmental conscious but would like to try a solution if it fits her own goals.
    • She is a great cook, and enjoys when the whole family gather together on holidays.
    • She doesn't like to try out new flavours.
    • She tries to adapt to the new reality of her children living on their own but still she spends a lot in grocery that she doesn't need to.
    • Healthy meals are one of her priorities, as well as reducing the waste in her own home

    Main painpoints:

    living after a long time alone with her husband, excessive food waste at a household level

    Maggie Jefferson
    The student

    Maggie is at her early 20, student with low income. It is her first time living on her own at the college dorm. She doesn’t cook and she is not exactly aware how much she spends for food, but she knows she either eats out or orders delivery food. When she is short on money she skips meals. She is interested in the environment, mostly as a trend.

    Main painpoints:

    lack of time to prepare meals, fixed budget for grocery

    Why an extreme user?

    Maggie doesn’t cook, and is not concsious about her diet. Her lack of cooking skills and the low budget are the main factors of her nutritional choices.
    MAGGIE's user journey

    Deciding on dinner at the dorm

    Greg Mapwiss
    The sceptical

    Greg is in his early 40ies, lives with his girlfriend a bit outside of the city, works as a freelance-photographer, travels a lot for work. He is health conscious and takes care of a balanced diet, likes cooking but doesn’t have the time to cook on a daily basis. He doesn’t trust new trends and he is not open to try out new flavours. Budget is also important to him.

    Main painpoints:

    balanced diet, lack of time, lack of trust in new trends/ flavours, shopping within budget

    Why an extreme user?

    Greg would be sceptical about our solution, as he is health concsious, values a balanced diet, doesn’t trust new trends, and is not open to try out new flavours.

    Grocery shopping every Saturday afternoon



    Flexible, price- orientated for an ordering solution

    Maggie needs a flexible, price orientated ordering solution, because she doesn't know how to cook and needs to stay within her tight budget when ordering food.

    Quick & flexible grocery shopping alternative

    Greg needs a quick & flexible grocery shopping alternative which allows him to identify the quality of each product when buying because he is leading a busy life, is health conscious, doesn't trust trends and new flavors and currently he is spending much of his free time on grocery shopping.

    Efficient loyalty programm/ offer availability

    Greg & Maggie need an efficient loyalty/ offering programme, because they want to make the most out of each purchase.
    Final articulation of the problem | HMW

    How might we help Michaela, Leo, Betty, Greg and Maggie to enjoy healthy, fresh and affordable meals, while reducing food waste on a household level?


    What if we repurpose the grocery near to expiration date and expand their life-cycle?

    The idea

    Grocery stores/ chains - mostly supermarkets and big markets could introduce a new system which would allow them to select food near to its expiration date, cook the food and sell the cooked food at affordable prices/ deliver to customers.
    Left-overs of the cooked food could then get frozen and sold as frozen meal for the microwave.

    The pain that will address/ resolve

    For the grocery store: reducing food waste, building up a conscious culture/ image for the public & potentially in the long-run increase profit
    For the consumers: enjoying healthy, affordable meal-options, time-saving & reducing food waste

    The constraints it embodies

    The grocery store should enhance its infrastructure/ logistics to support such a solution
    Marketing should be involved to promote the program
    The consumers should be convinced that the offering is healthy and nutritional indeed.

    What kind of grocery would we like to save?

    illustrated categorisation of the grocery we would like to consider in our initiative
    As seen on the image above we have 3 main different categories of food that we would like to avoid wasting:
    • Fruits and Vegetables
    • Fresh Animal products (pork, chicken, veil, eggs, cheese, fish etc)
    • Canned foods and liquids (incl. frozen meals)

    How might we extend their expiration date/ offer the consumers a safe/ healthy opportunity to buy them?

    Fruits and vegetables

    • Collect fruits and vegetables near to their expiration date
    • Freeze the ones that can be frozen (eg. strawberries) and seem in best quality and offer them as frozen goods
    • Produce smoothies and juices from the ones closer to expiration date and sell them as drinks
    • Use the ones that cannot be frozen (eg. potatoes)/ are the closest to their expiration date to prepare meals that can be sold on the spot, or get frozen for the consumers to buy and heat at home

    Fresh animal products

    • Collect animal products near to their expiration date
    • Freeze the ones that can be frozen (eg. meat, fish etc.) and seem in best quality and offer them as frozen goods
    • Use the ones that cannot be frozen (eg. eggs)/ are the closest to their expiration date to prepare meals that can be sold on the spot, or get frozen for the consumers to buy and heat at home

    Canned foods, and liquids

    • Use the ones that are the closest to their expiration date to prepare meals that can be sold on the spot in low prices, for consumers to safely enjoy.

    Why would this solve the problem...

    ...for the grocery chain introducing tis initiative?

    Having a collection, separation, meal preparation mechanism in place would give the grocery store the opportunity to almost reduce the food waste at its premises completely.
    All goods will be repurposed and most of them could be sold beyond their initial expiration date (freezing goods extends their expiration date, cooking afterwards gives us the opportunity to sell them or freeze them again as cooked food and extend their expiration date again)

    They will be able to offer diverse qualities of food to the consumers in diverse prices and in some cases even make bigger profit than selling the initial food - eg. when they produce and sell organic high-quality meals.

    ...for our personas / expected users of this service?

    Michaela would be able to buy fresh cooked, healthy meals during the week and also keep frozen meals at home to use when her time to cook is limited.
    She would, also, buy the raw, frozen goods, ie. veggies, and meat, to cook on the weekends and enjoy with friends. She won't need to spend more than what she spends now for deliveries and restaurants and she will feel good about herself knowing that she supports the environment and reduces food waste.
    Leo would support the food waste reduction while buying fresh cooked, healthy meals for himself when travelling.
    He would also appreciate the frozen fruits & vegetables as well as animal products, as he is not so often home and this way he doesn't have to worry about short expiration dates, while at the same time he would know that the goods are of the same quality as the fresh ones.
    Betty would try out the high-quality frozen goods, which can be kept safe for a long time.
    She would use as much as needed for cooking and keep the rest safe for a long time, reducing her own waste at home and being assured about the quality of the products. She wouldn't really try out the pre-cooked meals and hot meals herself, but she would suggest her children to try them, instead of buying frozen pizza or fast-food.

    ...for our extreme users?

    Maggie would buy the cooked goods, especially the "pre-canned" ones as the prices are low and saves her time from studying, partying and going to college.
    As she has no dedicated room to cook for herself, our solution would be a good alternative to deliveries and fast food. Once per month she might buy the more expensive meals to enjoy with her friends. She would prefer this service to effectively manage her finances, while at the same time enjoy healthier meals and at the same time she would feel good about herself, knowing she helps reducing waste and take care of the environment.
    Greg would appreciate the frozen goods as he will be able to save some grocery store trips during his busy weeks.
    Buying in larger quantities he will enjoy healthy and nutritional ingredients in high-quality without worrying about expiration dates. During travelling he would also enjoy the high-quality meals instead of eating out at restaurants, however, he wouldn't try out the pre-canned low-budget meals, as he wouldn't really trust the origin and nutritional balance.
    Testing our assumptions


    Young, busy professionals and activists/ environmental conscious audience would try this out

    Young, busy professionals and activists/ environmental conscious audience would try this service out and depending on price/ quality relation would possible become regular customers of "saved/ expanded life-cycle grocery"

    Elder audience seems a bit skeptical

    Unfortunately, elder audience seems a bit skeptical about our solution. People above 65 years old, seem to fear that the quality of the goods will be compromised and that the grocery will not last long enough in a good state. However, when we go with them into details and explain to them how we plan to achieve this food-waste reduction, they reconsider, stating that they might use the service, but they would need a recommendation from a friend first.

    Students are interested, but don't visit grocery stores so frequently

    Students on the other hand seem to love the idea. Still, they think they wouldn't use the service that much, as they don't visit grocery stores frequently. They would like to have a delivery option, so that they complete their orders also online. In that case, they would become loyal customers of this service, as long as it remains affordable.
    tools we used

    Except of our white-board, markers, sticky notes, sharpies, pencils, and paper-kit, working on this project we made good use of the following digital tools & resources:

    We used Google Suite to communicate via email, plan the project & the user research, create sheets & tables, create slide-presentations, and to store files and documents on cloud.
    Using Slack we were able to collaborate remotely, chat with each-other and keep track/ organise our communication.
    Hive allowed us to collaborate prioritise, assign, manage & keep track of our workflow and tasks one by one.
    We took notes on Evernote, captured our ideas, the literature & market research findings and/ or experts, collaborated remotely, wrote articles and documented the project's workflow.
    We used Mural for ideating & brainstorming, mind-mapping, creating personas and defining user journeys, collecting insights, and collaborating remotely throughout the design process
    Using the Optimal Workshop suite for our user research & findings analysis we had the opportunity to dive-in into details and understand our users.
    We visualised the user journeys, created storyboards, as well as diverse artefacts & illustrations to use in presentations, collaborative sessions etc. in Sketch.
    With Photoshop we retouched images, created some collages and made sure that we had high-quality imagery in our presentations, white papers, landing pages etc.
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    We used Webflow to create low-fidelity prototypes of logistic systems for observation of food processing.
    Unbounce gave us the possibility to design landing pages promoting the service and measuring the intent of users to buy.
    We used MailChimp to keep-up with our registered users on the landing pages and follow up with surveys, questionnaires etc.
    With Outgrow we created and published surveys to identify the intention to buy from a broader audience and user base.
    With Google Analytics we had the opportunity to understand the users perception of our online content/ presence and their intention to buy.
    We used Icons8 to get access to a variety of icons and automate our icon search & usage for visualisations, presentations etc.
    On Unsplash we downloaded royalty & commissions free images for our visualisations, eg. personas, storyboards, presentations etc.

    Are you a student or a young professional working on a similar initiative and would be interested in our toolset?
    As you can imagine, we use these & other tools in a variety of projects with diverse clients - from NGOs to startups & enterprises. As we would like to offer the best conditions possible to the companies & organisations we work with, we have partnered with some of the companies/ tool providers above to offer special pricing options to the people, companies & organisations we refer to them.

    Depending on the partnership/ affiliation contract with each of the companies, we might or might not are eligible to offer a discount/ trial or other incentives, and we might or might not get a commission when someone purchases a paid service, product or subscription model clicking the links above, eg. we have no partnership/ affiliation with Slack, Sketch, Mailchimp, Icons8 or Unsplash, but we have partnered with Unbounce to offer our friends, partners & clients 20% off for their first 3 months after trial.

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    If you have questions about wether or not we have an established partnership with a specific tool, and if we can offer a discount, contact us. We know how difficult it can be to start-out as a designer, and need to pay a fortune for software as a student and we would be glad to help out, if we can.

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