Human-centered food design : needfinding and solution for food startups
- Why do food startups fail, and how can we assist them in succeeding? These two questions ignited my exploration at the intersection of design, business, and food. While numerous factors contribute to the early demise of startups, I honed in on the product design process within these startups. Abundant evidence suggests that a lack of market fit is a primary cause of startup failure, and from a design perspective, this lack of market fit is intricately linked with the absence of human-centered design. Hence, my initial inquiry delved into how Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) food startups presently craft new products, with a particular emphasis on external stakeholders like consumers and peer startups. This investigation uncovered a noteworthy revelation: consumers, who should ideally be at the core of human-centered design, were not significantly engaged in the startups' design processes. The limited time and resources hindered the startup founders from gaining a deep understanding of their consumers' needs. Consequently, the founders primarily relied on informal consumer testing at venues like farmer's markets or food festivals to validate their own ideas. During the pandemic, a seismic shift occurred, with sales moving from offline to online. The traditional channels through which food startups gathered consumer feedback witnessed significant downsizing, and even informal, in-person feedback became inaccessible. While a handful of companies managed to integrate online feedback into their product design processes, many were ill-equipped with the necessary tools to comprehend their consumers in this new online landscape. Therefore, the next phase of the research focused on creating data-driven knowledge of consumers' needs for food startups. The theoretical structure I developed to understand consumer needs is called the Food Personality Framework (FPF). I argue that a set of food values can characterize a consumer or consumer group. Knowing the values can further guide the design of food products tailored to that consumer(s). The set of food values, such as pleasure, convenience, and health, was inspired by both the literature and my original set of interviews with consumers on their food lifestyles. The first application of the framework was user clustering. Using user interaction data from a popular recipe website Food.com, I created quantitative user personas by clustering the users based on their food values. The personas can potentially be used as heuristics by food startups to characterize their consumers. Next, I embarked on characterizing various product categories based on the food values of their consumers. Amidst the plethora of available consumer data, I held the belief that food reviews on Amazon Whole Foods had the potential to be most beneficial for the product design process of food startups. Many startups aspired to make their mark in Whole Foods, and some even launched their products on Amazon during the pandemic, despite their limited knowledge of this new platform. As I delved into the analysis of review data from Whole Foods, employing the perspective of food values, I made a compelling discovery. Each product category, such as kimchi, could be delineated by a distinctive set of food values. To illustrate, functionality held great significance for tea consumers, while morality emerged prominently in reviews of chocolate products. Furthermore, pleasure was the most recurrently observed value. Lastly, such findings were presented to food startups in a design workshop, and I tested the applicability of the new knowledge to their product design process through an interactive review analysis platform called REVEAL. Food startups found the presentation of value-specific product attributes very helpful to their product development process. This dissertation not only takes design as a topic of investigation but also leverages it as the overall methodology to answer the research question. This research follows the design thinking process, starting from the needfinding of food startups and ending with concrete solutions to address the startups' needs. The research bridges the gap between the literature and the industry by providing rich, empirical knowledge on food startups and transforming the design literature's advice into a digestible form of knowledge.
|Type of resource
|electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
|1 online resource.
|Jung, Da Hyang
|Degree committee member
|Stanford University, School of Engineering
|Stanford University, Department of Mechanical Engineering
|Statement of responsibility
|Summer Da Hyang Jung.
|Submitted to the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
|Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2023.
- © 2023 by Da Hyang Jung
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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