Food Lab

DGI's Food Lab aids food industries to stay up-to-date with the changing pace of people's habits, concerns, and desires. Our team combines a range of skills including: consumer insight management, food product design, food and packaging technology, nutritional science, culinary arts, and neuroscience. The Food Lab’s expertise can provide tasteful answers to the following questions:

  • How can industrial food products be reformulated to cope with increasing sustainability concerns?
  • How can local artisan specialties remain authentic for an industrial scale-up?
  • How can a product combine pleasure with nutrition in a convincing way?
  • How can functional nutrition be translated into meaningful eating experiences?
  • How can quality cope with the increasing demand for convenience?

Discover more details about our team and services in the weeks to come (last update 9 May 2016). Find below a selection of our work for the food industry.

Behavioral change through industrial food design

What if mozzarella could be eaten like pasta?

Reinventing Food Design

Orecchiette di mozzarella


DGI rethinks eating by combining an understanding of traditional foods, modern trends, and human behavior. For example, what if Mozzarella could be eaten like a pasta? Galbani asked DGI to explore new opportunities for the Santa Lucia brand of mozzarella. The focus was on changing the format of mozzarella so it could be eaten like a pasta. The challenge was to keep the product within the bounds of what is considered mozzarella. The design needed to be a product which was white, round, soft, and preserved in whey. The product needed to remain authentic. People typically like to eat mozzarella as it is or dress it, however, there are no available mozzarella products on the market that can retain a dressing. This led to investigating traditional pasta formats. After much experimentation, orecchiette was the closest shape to the round edgeless appeal of mozzarella. Copying the shape of orecchiette was possible without altering the cheese making process. The technique only required small changes to the standard production line. The result was a product that enhanced the experience of eating mozzarella.

New breadstick concept for Barilla

Sometimes innovating means rediscovering tradition

Brand new breadsticks for Barilla

DGI was given the task of creating new product concepts for breadsticks. The task was to create breadsticks for the Barilla brands Mulino Bianco and Pavesi. After a wide-ranging research analysis, intensive baking experimentation, and many visits to Barilla’s plants, DGI provided a broad range of concepts, thirteen of which have been patented. During this process, two main routes of innovation were identified.

The first route was suitable for Mulino Bianco. This involved strengthening the link between current products and artisan tradition which has been weakened from years of industrial production. DGI suggested that Barilla reconsider their approach and proposed a range of concepts designed to proudly show traces of the traditional processes that have survived the industrial scale-up. For example, when breadsticks are made by a baker, the dough is stretched and pinched at the ends. During the manufacturing process, the dough is stretched in the same way but by a machine rather than a baker. The pinched ends are usually cut away for standardizing purposes. DGI suggested that Barilla should keep the pinched edges and show that not all of the artisan process has been lost. This led to the creation of the Raggianti breadstick line by Mulino Bianco in 2006.

The second route was suitable for Pavesi, this involved specializing the product for social occasions such as parties. The aim was to widen the range of ways in which a bread stick can be eaten. Inspiration was taken from the shape of celery stalks. The new design of breadstick is used for dipping and spreading. For this concept Barilla developed and patented a new manufacturing technology.

Rev Wraps

Hormel’s most successful launch ever

Product positioning for the market

Rev Wraps by Hormel

Hormel teamed up with DGI to design the product strategy for a new range of wrap sandwiches. After researching the eating trends of the Western world, it is clear that the current hectic pace of everyday life has blurred the separation between snacks and meals. As a result, people are looking for convenient solutions with nutritional value. Packaged foods were not meeting this demand, as they are perceived as junk food and empty calories. Working closely with ethnographic researchers across the US, DGI developed a clear understanding of the relevant consumer demand spaces such as functionality and emotional needs. The insights gained from these different demand spaces enabled the team to define the key product characteristics to serve these needs, including the product format, communication mood and food design. While developing a range of product concepts we explored the semantics of different industrial product design characteristics, such as food product construction and packaging interaction. The end product was the Rev Wrap, Hormel’s most successful launch ever.

What can you get out of an apple?

Exploration on fruit for Conserve Italia

Utilizing food packaging

Developing fruit product concepts

Conserve Italia, a preserved fruit and vegetable producer asked DGI to stimulate their internal innovation processes through a broad creative exploration of product concepts. DGI proposed playing with the above map and either challenging or strengthening the established position of each category. Most people perceive fruit as being simultaneously nourishing, refreshing, indulgent, and healthy. For freshly picked fruit, these values are evenly balanced, while for processed fruit some values are inevitably enhanced at the expense of others.

The power of fruit

Two of the traditional forms of preserved fruit include dried fruit and compotes. The aim was to think of new ways to present fruit products for customers. Compotes are often associated with baby food and dried fruits are often seen as an old-fashioned indulgence. The concept for compotes and dried fruit was based on the idea of energy and power. The design and concept was a product with dried fruit shaped like four energy-filled batteries. For compotes, the design included a green power pouch of apple compote.

A slice of convenience

At times it can be difficult to balance the fast pace of life alongside healthy eating. Conserve Italia released a range of packed and ready-to-to eat fresh fruit that quickly gained market share. However, DGI wanted to build on this by creating a pre-sliced fruit with a greater purpose that went beyond simple convenience. The product needed to have multiple uses such as a snack, dessert, special treat, or a healthy food that could be added to a child or adult’s lunch. The solution was the creation of the concept of a pre-washed and cut apple with an accompanying custard dip.

Ready-to-blend fresh fruit in a cup

DGI designed the Valfrutta fruit cup concept as a solution for the service industry. A bar tender can make clean and simple fresh fruit smoothies or juices in front of customers. The cup comes with a branded blender that fits on top of the cup. The design is an efficient and clean way to blend fruit.

Can you innovate a stock cube?


Research for a new stock cube format

Due to the rising cost of raw materials, Knorr were evaluating the possibility of changing the format and packaging of stock cubes with the idea of eliminating the thin aluminum foil that wraps each individual cube. As part of Knorr’s explorations, DGI were entrusted with carrying out the initial broad exploration of new product concepts. Many ideas were generated such as developing a new shape for the use of other packaging technologies, creating a rigid compact tablet, a soluble shell with a soft product center and, a jelly stock cube

Challenges for a global brand

Packaging suited for diverse sales environments

One of the principal challenges was to make the new concepts suitable for the various environments in which stock cubes are sold. In supermarkets, stock cubes are sold in multipacks, however, street sellers and small drugstores in developing countries sell cubes in single or twin packs.

The stock cube as a treasure

Emotive interaction project

The act of unwrapping the aluminum foil around a stock cube is a ritual that enhances the sense of its value. Individually protected by a valuable material, the product acquires the allure of a fine chocolate. While developing concepts, this ritual aspect was reproduced by taking inspiration from the art of confectionary.