We built and tested the first machine for storage and bulk distribution of yogurt in store.
In October 2018, Danone’s Manifesto Innovation Accelerator (MIA) team approached Possible Future with a brief. The mission? Develop a way to sell yoghurt in bulk and test it in real life.
We jumped at the opportunity to work on another project with Danone, this time to create an inspiring new offering that would allow people to buy yoghurt in the quantities that are convenient for them. We were also excited about the potential environmental impact of the project: reducing food waste, and reducing the amount of plastic packaging used. Self-serve yoghurt already exists for on-the-go, immediate consumption, but a bulk, self-serve replacement for yoghurt you’d buy at the grocery store was a novel and interesting challenge. We were eager to tackle the unique and complex aspects of distributing a fresh, dairy product in bulk : yoghurt storage and handling, consumer perceptions, and retailer considerations were just a few of the challenges we were faced with as we developed this project with Danone.
From our research, we could see that retailers were looking to compete with online retailers by improving customers’ in-store experiences through offers involving customization, bulk distribution, and environmental/social good. In particular, with the success of the bulk-only grocery chain Day by Day in France and the explosion of bulk offerings in general grocery stores like Auchan, we could see that bulk purchasing had become more than just a curiosity. Narrowing our focus to yoghurt in particular, we found that people wanted to buy in bulk because it allowed them to :
These 4 aspirations were at the forefront of our decision-making process as we thought through the design of the solution – we designed and built 2 different iterations of the prototype, with each cycle taking about 3-4 months.
1. Reduce food waste and environmental impact
The carton cups we provide are recyclable, but in order to go even further, our machine is also compatible with a large range of reusable containers! Our system also reduces the amount of yoghurt wasted by allowing people to choose the exact amount of yoghurt they need and by presenting the use-by-date clearly and prominently on the sticker.
2. Experience something fun and new
One of the most important aspects of any product is the user experience, and we wanted to present shoppers with an approachable, fun, and easy-to-use machine. The white, curved panels are inviting and friendly, as opposed to cold and utilitarian. The cups are positioned at a comfortable height. Using the machine is simple and intuitive – simply open the transparent door, place your cup inside, and push the button to start dispensing yoghurt! We added a screen to give people a live estimate of the quantity, and we also added lights that illuminate the inside of the cup to allow the customer to visually see how much yoghurt they’ve dispensed. After dispensing exactly the amount of yoghurt they want, they simply take their cup out and a label is automatically printed and presented to them to stick onto their cup – right now, this label provides key information such as the recommended use-by date and storage temperature, but we imagine that other information such as barcode, price, and weight could also be added to this label in the future. The user takes a lid from our custom lid dispenser, and voila! They are now ready to pay at the counter and enjoy their yoghurt!
3. Choose the perfect quantity
We knew that there would be a wide range of users and use cases, from parents wanting to bring home and store a large quantity for their kids to teenagers wanting to grab a healthy bite to eat on the go. Our machine allows customers to buy the perfect amount of yoghurt for their particular use case by providing different cup options (2 different sizes plus option to bring their own), direct control over the amount of yoghurt, and clear feedback on the quantity by illuminating the inside of the cup and by displaying a live quantitative estimate.
4. Enjoy a fresh and natural product
A fresh and natural product required a refrigeration and storage solution for the bulk yoghurt, so we worked with Danone to repurpose and upcycle one of their existing machines that already had this functionality. Our engineers and industrial designers were excited by the challenge of reusing a machine that already did part of the job and integrating it with the rest of the machine to deliver the experience that they had imagined for the user.
Testing a product with real people in a real environment is the best way to validate that it meets their needs and to collect feedback for further improvements. We designed and created this second version of the prototype specifically with in-store testing in mind, and while our team was working hard on bringing the physical prototype to life, the MIA team was able to find a perfect partner and product for our 2-week pilot test:
Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, was the first day of the test, and so far, the feedback has been extremely positive! We’ve already surpassed many of our initial sales estimates, and we’ve received a lot of feedback through discussions both in store and online that will help us improve the product going forward (see Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber’s post on LinkedIn). In particular, many people felt strongly about being able to use reusable containers as opposed to the single use carton cups we provided during our test. We would also like to make some design changes to make the user experience more intuitive and to improve the usability of the machine for the store employees.
Overall though, many customers have been happy to see a fresh product offering at day by day, and it’s clear that there is strong demand for a product like this that offers the opportunity to do good for the environment while enjoying a delicious dairy product that gives back to farmers.
What’s next? After reviewing the results of this first test, we hope to test the concept in more stores for a longer period of time!
weeksto build 2 prototypes
weekspilot at Day by Day