July 1, 2021

We have all been there, standing in front of your refrigerator asking yourself whether or not you should eat something that is closing in on it’s expiry date. A simple solution could be to smell and taste but recent studies have shown that we, sadly, are more reluctant to that than ever before. As we all know by now food waste is a major problem for our environment and almost one third of all food produced goes to waste with our use, and misuse, of expiry dates being one of the biggest reasons. If only there were a way to get an indication of the food products status already on the package, a lot of food would be able to save large amounts of precious food.

The member company Innoscentia started working on the problem a couple of years ago in the university town of Lund in the south of Sweden and relocated to Norrsken House in 2019. They have developed a dynamic shelf life label to indicate if the food product is good to eat or not and are now getting close to their first pilot tests. We sat down with Erik and Pelle from the Management team to hear more about their innovation and how they used the Norrsken community to accelerate their development. 

This sounds almost too good to be true, tell us more about the label. How does it actually work? 

Well that reaction we do get a lot and probably also what we will hear from customers in our first pilots but that’s normally how it is bringing cutting edge innovation to the market we believe. In the degradation of food (or basicly any organic product) certain gases evolve and by measuring the levels and concentrations of these gases it’s possible to determine how far in the process the product has come. We have developed an ink that, when reacting with these gases, changes it’s properties in order to indicate the status in real time. We have two versions of this and work both with an analogue label that changes colour and a digital label that can send the information with a digital signal to, for example a smartphone. 

And now you partnered up with another of our members, Designit for parts of our development. How did that come about? 

That’s right, we had a great sprint together during the last couple of weeks and really loved to work with their team. We actually found them in the Norrsken slack channel when they joined a few months back and originally started discussing another idea before landing in this project. Designit has great skills in product design and development so that’s why we decided to join forces in creating a few new interface alternatives for our analogue label to use for our first industrialized labels. We were really happy with what their team created and hope to continue the collaboration when moving forward. 

Johan Bohman from Designit, could you tell us a bit more about the project and why you decided to do it together with Innoscentia? 

Collaborating with Innocentia was a no brainer. We are both in the business to shape products and services that have a positive impact on people and the planet. Innoscentia asked us to help them come up with a range of label design concepts, so that’s what we did in a 4-day design sprint. It might sound like a simple task, but conveying a big message on a small surface, in a simple enough way for people to instantly get it, that’s a challenge. By working closely together with Innoscentia throughout the whole process, we feel confident that we now have a wide range of design concepts, ready to be tested on consumers

So what happens now? 

Well there are a lot of things going on at the moment. We are just finalizing a new investment round and have been joined by Karin Wehlin as our new chairman of the board. It’s going to be an intense year where we will be industrializing the labels and preparing for our first pilot tests to be performed together with major retailers and producers in the Nordics. Basically we will be continuing with what we have always strived towards; putting a best before date on the best before date. If you are interested in hearing more or want to take part in creating the labels of the future, don’t hesitate to reach out;

Give us some numbers on food waste! How much do we actually throw away every year? And how much could be rescued? 

Well I think we have all heard some of the numbers being thrown around. On an average we waste about one third of all the food that is produced and in the western countries that number is even higher. Since we currently work with fresh meat I would like to highlight the fact that 21% of all meat is wasted which is the equivalent of astonishing 5,7 billion animals that annually are slaughtered just to end up in the bin. We are aiming to reduce the waste caused by the expiry date system and studies show that we would be able to half the waste by unlocking two extra days of shelf life, something that would be possible with our labels.

What’s your view on design and impact? Does it go hand in hand?

We see design as an enabler of impact and in our case a necessity to accomplish a change of behaviour. Most people are probably willing to reduce their waste but we need to help them to make it as easy as possible and that’s something that could be done with intuitive design.

What’s your go-to no-waste-dish?

With the waste numbers in the meat industry in mind combined with being a pasta lover I would never waste a good Carbonara ;)

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