A tech-forward mobile application that plans personalized meals based on your preferences and dietary needs, ensuring that no ingredient goes unused prior to expiration and ultimately reducing food waste.
How might we optimize meal planning for home cooks so that their groceries are used before expiration to reduce food waste?
Food is one of the world’s most valued resources, and yet somehow also stands as one of the most wasted commodities. Statistics from the American Journal of Agricultural Economics reveal that U.S. consumers waste approximately one-third of all purchased food, amounting to about $1,500 worth of groceries for a four-person household every year. Beyond financial implications, the resources that go into producing, processing, transporting, storing, and preparing food are wasted as well. Furthermore, environmental consequences are significant, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reporting that food waste accounts for nearly 25% of landfill space nationwide, ultimately producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Food waste at home is a widely shared experience but often happens unintentionally. The entirety of surveyed users admitted to encountering expired foods in their homes at least once a month, yet only 33.3% actually consider food expiration dates when planning meals. Reducing food waste at home is one of the simplest ways people can save money and contribute meaningfully to a sustainable future. Although various solutions exist in the market to address this issue, such as meal kits or enabling restaurants to sell excess food at discounted prices, none of them currently offer the option for users to purchase their own groceries from stores—a common desire identified by one-third of users. Moreover, these solutions often provide limited choices for the 6 in 10 American adults with specific nutritional restrictions, including allergies, plant-based diets, fad diets, or even specific macronutrient goals. This leaves a large portion of the potential market untapped.
User Pain Points
To effectively address this problem, a survey was conducted with 9 users to identify the meal planning and grocery shopping challenges faced by home cooks. The survey identified three primary areas of concern: food expiration, recipe discovery, and grocery shopping experience. Additionally, the survey revealed users' most prominent concerns with existing solutions on the market.
- 66.7% of participants admit they struggle with keeping track of the items in their fridge and pantry, and all said they find expired foods at least once a month
- 77.8% indicated they can find it difficult or tedious to discover new meals to try
- All participants indicated that they prefer to grocery shop in-person at a grocery store, but only 33.3% said they enjoy it and find it a pleasant experience
- Participants’ concerns with existing meal preparation solutions are as follows:
Preliminary user research to validate this problem revealed that food waste caused by expired products and the tedious nature of finding new recipes are common struggles. Additionally, participants have shown limited adoption of current grocery shopping alternatives, yet they demonstrate a clear need for a more effective solution. Based on the pain points identified with existing solutions, users are looking for a simple, cost-effective solution that allows them to cook for themselves.
Landing on the Solution
Research uncovered the critical and often overlooked issue of household food waste. User research findings highlighted challenges related to time-consuming grocery shopping and the struggle to find new recipes that align with specific dietary preferences. The proposed solution aims to address both issues simultaneously.
Explanation of Solution
FreshPrep provides a cost-effective software solution for optimized meal planning and food management, empowering individuals to make a positive impact in their own homes. The high-level goal is to address the issue of food waste and contribute to a more sustainable future. However, in doing so, it also creates a personalized tool that simplifies the process of meal planning and grocery shopping, making it more enjoyable and ultimately helping households save money.
Drawing upon the experience and knowledge I gained from this project, I plan to collaborate with a team of designers and engineers to begin building out this product. Ultimately, with sufficient time and resources, my goal is to transform this vision into a reality, fulfilling my passion for creating a more sustainable future.
Images - screenshots, marketing assets, etc.
Product Manager Learnings:
As a Product Manager, I learned the importance of putting the user at the forefront of every decision. I set aside initial ideas for features and concentrate on uncovering the user’s real needs through unbiased research. Iterative refinement is inevitable and should be prioritized as you continue to discover more intricacies of the problem. My biggest takeaway: avoid being confined to a single mindset—be open to evolving user demands and actively seek feedback wherever you can find it.