There is growing interest from the public in purchasing locally produced fresh fruit and vegetables, prompted by a variety of motivations ranging from health, taste, lifestyle, and sustainability and other ethical considerations. In an every-day context, however, making informed food choices based on providence and considerations such as “food-miles” can be an unexpectedly complex and challenging undertaking, especially in the Australian market.

First introduced by Sharon Lee at the ASIX Social Innovation Camp 2010, FlavourCrusader is a social innovation project that aims to leverage social technologies such as mobile phones, Twitter and Foursquare might be employed to address some of these challenges.

The project’s broader goals are:

  • increase consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables;
  • improve health outcomes;
  • strengthen local economies threatened by globalised food supply chains and the supermarket duopoly in Australia;
  • connect urban food-lovers (“foodies”) with the origins of their food.

FlavourCrusader takes a very practical and tightly-focused approach to increasing customer efficacy around food sourcing and preparation—in other words, helping consumers to make “better” food choices (more flavoursome, fresher, healthier, affordable) and increasing their skills in cooking (e.g. cooking tastier food and tapping into “lifestyle” drivers for cooking etc.)—as a means of increasing the prevalence of fresh, local produce in daily habits.

Design research

An example persona

An understanding of motivations, barriers, needs and context of use for customers, producers, and local market operators (e.g. farmersʼ markets) was considered by the project team to be an important contributor to project success. With this in mind, we undertook in-person interviews with social media–savvy food lovers (“foodies”) and a small number of producer representatives. We augmented this user research with an examination of existing studies into motivations, needs and barriers of farmers’ market customers, and fresh fruit and vegetable customers more generally.

From this research we were able to develop representative [personas][4] to communicate key user needs, informing the ongoing design of the application. This research also built upon, and in some cases reinforced, the project direction and identified the key features required to deliver a “minimum viable product”—that is the minimum feature set that would need to be developed to get FlavourCrusader in front of real people to use.

Rapid prototyping

In keeping with our agile approach, we then developed up a web-based prototype (which can be viewed on iPhone or Android-based phone) to test the prototype application in real-life use. This also gave the project team an opportunity to see how the initial content developed for the application translated in practice.

Doing so immediately generated useful insights that were integrated into the application in small iterations of improvements and refinements identified by the project team applying the application in day-to-day use. We then ran a series of workshops, including one at Social Innovation Sydney in February 2010, to get rapid feedback on the application from a wider group of participants.

Workshops and user testing

These interactive workshops were designed to emulate the typical contexts in which users of FlavourCrusader would use the application, but in a way where a larger number of individuals could contribute in a small amount of time — taking advantage of opportunities to connect with the Social Innovation Sydney community. The workshop activities responded to the core scenarios the application aims to address:

  • You are on your way home from work and thinking about dinner. How would you decide what to have for dinner?
  • You are planning a dinner party with friends on the weekend, how would you plan for this meal?
  • You are in a store choosing your fruit and veg for the week and you want to find out if something is in season. How would you determine this?

The activities were also structured to elicit a deeper understanding of participants’ food and cooking habits in relation to these key scenarios. These insights have further solidified the project’s development roadmap, emphasising the features that are most valuable for users and are therefore most likely to drive adoption. Our work has also highlighted which opportunities for social engagement are most likely to be successful.

Future possibilities

In our ongoing work with FlavourCrusader, we are exploring a wide variety of issues, including:

  • Interaction design for behaviour change: how game mechanics and other design approaches can support the project’s broader goals
  • Revenue generation opportunities: what are the different commercial opportunities to achieve financial self-sufficiency
  • Social engagement: examining how the community might be engaged more actively in contributing to FlavourCrusader (e.g. non-financially) and how peer interactions may help in achieving behaviour change
  • Further testing and evaluation: continuing to engage users in the process of evaluating and refining new versions of the application

Find out more

The ‘Eating our 2&5’ presentation was presented at the UX Australia 2011 conference and provides further background on our work to date on FlavourCrusader:

Or you can download a PDF of the presentation, with presenter notes containing pointers to further information.

3 thoughts on “FlavourCrusader

  1. Hi Steve – thanks for the pointer to the OpenIDEO challenge – looks very interesting!

    The supporting personas (and other preliminary research) is documented on my personal blog – they are all licensed under Creative Commons as attribution-share alike. Hope that helps :) And of course, any feedback would be most appreciated.

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