The project explored the phenomena of edible fruits and vegetables wasted at discount retail stores in Denmark. The main causes and consequences of produce waste are explored through the desk research, interviews with key actors: consumers, dumpster divers, staff members and managers, and through behavioural observations at the retails stores. Design workshops were conducted with Food Bank and ALDI through a Participatory Design approach that included design games. Customers in ALDI’s stores were also approached with a simplistic design gam to involve them in the design process. We, as a design team sought to create a solution to sell products that would otherwise be wasted within retail stores. The outcome is the concept Ripe n Ready food box, as well as recommendations for policymakers and retailers.
A local and global phenomenon
It is estimated that globally, one-third of food produced for human consumption is wasted, and almost half (45%) of fruits and vegetables. This is a systemic issue contributing to climate change and environmental degradation. On a global scale, food waste is responsible for 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. It is not only edible food that goes to waste. According to the Danish environmental protection agency, the production of food and the associated land-use changes, are the major contributors to the overall global warming impact.
Food waste is also a systemic issue in the case of Denmark. The Danish food supply chain generates about 716,000 tons of avoidable food waste annually, and approximately 23% of the waste is generated in the retail and wholesale sector. Here fruits and vegetables are estimated to be the food category with the largest contribution to the avoidable food waste. Of all the avoidable food waste generated by the wholesale and retail stores, 38% is fruit and vegetables, which is set to be the largest category by volume.
The discount store problem
Food waste is especially an issue within the discount supermarket stores. Discount supermarket stores are typically characterized by limited size, storage and lower range of products. This also means that they have no optimal ways of dealing with their unsellable produce, for example, internal kitchen, that could cook the unsellable produce into soups or other prepared foods. A so-called ‘closed-loop’ model within these stores is harder to achieve and as a consequence of that is that more produce is being thrown out.
To investigate this problem, collaboration was initiated with ALDI Denmark. ALDI is a discount retailer2 in Denmark, widely known for its affordable products. They have the above-mentioned limitations on facilities and resources such as low staffing levels. The design team sees these issues of ALDI as generalizable to most discount stores in Denmark.
The culture of high standards
As a part of the food culture in Denmark, buying packaged produce, expecting full shelf throughout all opening hours of the store and having high cosmetic standards, are noticed to be common expectations from the customers. These high standards and expectations are factors contributing to greater pressure on the discount stores. This forces the stores to order more food and produce than they can manage to sell in time and be strict in discarding bruised or imperfect produce from the shelves.
Not feasible to donated…
Additionally, the current laws and regulations in Denmark, regarding food and food waste are making it difficult to distribute the food waste in other ways. Here amongst taxes and regulations on donating food to private individuals or charities are making it, to some extent, more expensive to donate the food than to throw it out.
Four main causes of produces waste:
• Loose vegetables and fruit don’t sell • Produce in multi-packs gets thrown out if one fruit or vegetable goes bad • Customers are picky and likely to choose the newest produce. • Over ordering leads to waste.
Ripe n’ Ready – the final concept
To tackle the problem of produce waste, the design team created the ‘Ripe n’ Ready’ box. This solution sells produce in a different framing and at a discount. Our research showed that discount supermarkets have limited human resources in the store, which is why this concept is found to be the most suitable because it only requires limited resources from the store employees.
How it works…
The fruits and vegetables that cannot be sold at normal pricing due to the previously mentioned reasons are collected and used for the Ripe n’ Ready Boxes. The boxes are mixed, so they all contain a mixture of that day’s otherwise non-sellable produce. The boxes are then put on sale at a discounted price. The boxes should be sold in different sizes and the weight would vary according to what non-sellable produce the supermarket has that day.
It is important for the discount supermarket to frame the concept in the right way for its success. It is our recommendation that social media is used to support this framing. ALDI’s Instagram or a smartphone app can be used to inspire costumers with different recipes that can be cooked with elements of the Ripe N’ Ready box.
The framing is also supported by the shelving unit used to display the boxes. It should reflect a new and green initiative but should also reflect that the produce is still fresh and ready to eat.
The design team acknowledges the importance of placement in the store, and it is recommended that the shelving display is placed at the beginning of the produce section in regard to the entrance of the store. This will ensure that costumers see the solution before they start shopping for produce.