DGI’s Food Lab aids clients in the food industry in staying up-to-date with people’s changing 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 team provides clients with expertise and tasty 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?
DGI is one of the 12 partners (9 SME and 3 Universities) of the Foodnet project, promoted and funded by Regione Lombardia. The project objective is to improve the diet of senior people (65+) by providing them with the nutrients they need through food products that they like to buy and eat. DGI is entrusted to lead the design process aiming to develop these products, from ideation to prototyping.
For more information: https://www.designgroupitalia.com/en/page/progetto-foodnet/
We all love a dollop of flower honey in our tea. The most annoying thing about using the sweet stuff? Cleaning the honey spoon afterwards. We performed a behavioural analysis around honey and how people use it, and learned that while with honey, mess is part of the experience, there are opportunities to improve.
DipperBall offers a different kind of functionality: the spoon is divided into two parts, a bulb and a handle, that join together through a strong magnet (protected by a casing to avoid being in direct contact with the honey). After use, you simply detach the handle and leave the bulb in the honey jar: no need to clean it and waste the honey trapped between the bulb fins. Next time you crave for honey you just recall the bulb by means of your magnetic handle, easy as pie.
In-Honey is a single serve infuser with two added functionalities: it can be dipped in honey to collect just the amount of honey that you would like to add to your cup of tea, and used as a stirring tool once you have immersed it in your cup. The nectar dissolves homogeneously in the cup, while the infusion happens, for a balanced taste experience.
The series of objects was presented at Wanted Design NYC 2017 as part of the Urban Bee Hives project, created in collaboration with Green Island.
– With this quick, creative exercise in serving honey, we wanted to be a part of a beautiful initiative that is undertaking a larger challenge. For millennia, bees have played key role in our food chain. Industrial farming is now threatening bees, which are disappearing from overexploited croplands. Urban Bee Hives aims to raise awareness on this, says Federico Casotto, who leads the DGI Food Lab.
– Ours was a really small contribution to the cause, yet we think that design could effectively help societies confronting the issues of the modern food system. With our project FLY2050, for example, we experiment with a possible alternative protein source for farmed animals, Casotto says.
Master in Food Design at SPD Milan
Our Food Lab team regularly speaks, teaches and consults on food design and food product development. This spring, Federico Casotto lead work projects on developing new product ideas as part of the master program in food design in SPD Milan.
Reinventing Food Design
Orecchiette di Mozzarella
DGI rethinks eating by combining an understanding of traditional foods, modern trends and human behaviour. For example, what if mozzarella could be eaten like a pasta dish? 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 dish. The challenge was to keep the product within the bounds of what is considered mozzarella. The design needed to be a product that 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 pasta was found to be 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.
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 the Mulino Bianco brand. It 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 standardising purposes. DGI suggested that Barilla keep the pinched edges to 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 the Pavesi brand and involved tailoring 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.
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 were perceived as junk food and empty calories. Working closely with ethnographic researchers across the United States, DGI developed a clear understanding of the relevant consumer demand spaces, including 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.
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. On the other hand, 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 concepts our team developed for compotes and dried fruit were based on the idea of energy and power. The design and concept developed into 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-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, serving 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 use it to 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.
Research for a New Stock Cube Format
Due to the rising cost of raw materials, Knorr was evaluating the possibility of changing the format and packaging of stock cubes, with the idea of eliminating the thin aluminium foil that wraps each individual cube. As part of Knorr’s explorations, DGI was entrusted with carrying out the initial exploration of new product concepts. Many ideas were generated, including developing a new shape for the use of other packaging technologies, creating a rigid compact tablet, designing a soluble shell with a soft product centre and creating 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 aluminium foil that encases 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.