More you know, tastier it is



Captured by Pavel Azaletskiy, edited by Evgenii Fedotov


Food source is somewhat of gray area for most of us, except for a handful top notch, world class chefs and connoisseurs; we do not pay attention to source, except for, maybe, big signs “Locally raised” in supermarkets and “best by” label on packaging. Who carez about how any particular product makes its way to the shelf and then to our basket, or to the fancy plate in a local restaurant.


Decision making process for grocery shopping or particular order in dining room is more determined by eye-catching colored packaging, red tag with reduced price or exotic name on top of a menu.


Although organic and healthy food is rapidly growing trend, still almost all of us take food for granted, as a commodity, with no idea about production, delivery and distribution processes, barely taking into account its freshness besides usual “use-by” date. The food industry is optimized to keep cost low, volume high and economy scalable; local farmers and producers who are focused on offering best possible quality, struggle to explain the uniqueness and benefits of their product to the final consumers, therefore having no room to scale, especially given the fact that food supply chain does not favor small suppliers.


Kira, our case’s author and the founder of the Strongman Trucking company, operating on sea food distribution market in New Zealand, recognizes the problem of such niche producers, especially on her operating domain. She sees the demand from customers’ side and lack of incentives from any other participant in food supply chain. This kind of challenge fits perfectly to the how-might-we workshop, along with the role-playing approach to prove ideas right or wrong. Kira is welcomed to Design Thinking Club, workshop is arranged, answers on how to connect consumer and the story of the food producer are waiting to be found.


To set up the context, we started with the fish story video. Kira recorded it, in order to have an example of such a story with addition of some cooking insights. Fisherman’s point of view may affect the perception of the meal as whole: this is what we experienced watching this video. Me, personally, I would love to be on the boat and try what they got immediately. But, if the only thing you look at is a one line text in the menu, all plates are mostly equal; pictures give you better idea of what you can have and choice is easier, but listening/watching the story from any particular fisherman about the uniqueness of the fish, how neatly he caught it, and how fresh it  is, contributes a great deal to your decision.

FISH STORY https://youtu.be/umj4RxBi054


After this video, Kira discussed the current state of supply chain along with discouraging factors for niche farmers who produce specialty food, since distributors and wholesalers are interested in high volume, contrary to high-end restaurants which are interested in small batches and highest quality. Unfortunately, the gap between restaurants and farmers is big, not to mention the guests. In addition, Kira provided her research results and the supply chain players interviews.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQQicnZWkts



As you can see, the number of participants is significant, all have their own interests, adding complexity to brainstorming and designing possible solution. We split guests into two teams and let them innovate in form of “how might we” discussion with exercise template and roles prepared in advance.


The first team analyzed the business side and profits of each participant of supply chain. Red line on the picture below reflects the money earned by a particular player and blue line shows actual cost.



The drawback of this schema is that customer cannot be sure if the meal is prepared out of something special; restaurant’s chef often doesn’t know this info. The only available source regarding food origin is packaging, provided by distributor and/or wholesaler. So, the chef and customer are looking for a story, and, therefore, are ideal focus group for us. Moreover, it is essential to work with the restaurants owned by chefs, since they are deeply involved in the process of supplier selection and product procurement, opposing the case when owner and chef are different people (owner could control supply and restrict options for his chef). To provide more value and have better margins, a producer should find a way to work directly with restaurants, since they are willing to pay more for better quality than any manufacturer or wholesaler.


Another idea was to create cooperative between producers and manufacturer to leverage the bargaining power in front of downstream parts of the chain.

The second team’s focus on a final customer experience gave several ideas for the mobile app that may raise involvement in the food consuming process:

1. Bring more entertainment - show a story of meal cooking, or countdown of remaining time before meal is fully cooked.  

2. If customer makes a reservation in high-end restaurant well in advance of actual visit, then it is essential to engage him prior the reservation day: notify that fish is caught, delivered and now is waiting to be cooked.


Wrapping up this post, we can see that the problem is extremely complicated to be solved in 1.5 hours; at the event we just outlined several ideas and options for  possible solution. The next step should be more detailed problem statement analysis, followed by several prototyping and testing sessions. We would like to thank Kira Strongman for the unique and fascinating case, everybody who participated and presented their ideas, especially Abhijt, Archana, Manassa and all other guests.