I’ve written a few times recently about some nice innovations in the food industry, and in particular how they’re using the crowd to improve the services they offer. For instance, there are a couple of projects aiming to reduce food waste, be that by offering food near its use by date via social media, or the BIOMAT cafe in Austria that was encouraging people to compost more.
Or there’s the Dutch project that applies a crowdfunding style approach to the way we buy meat. Cows from partnering farms are listed on the website, and people can place their order in advance. Only when enough people have pledged to buy the entire cow is the meat then processed and sold. It’s an innovative way of trying to reduce food waste.
Another project is trying to increase the transparency of their procurement process. Each package of their food comes with a scannable QR code that takes the consumer to their Facebook page, where they can interact directly with the farmer who grew their produce for them.
These are some of the projects with a slightly ethical bent to them, but of course there are many others applying the crowd in more overtly commercial ways. Ben & Jerry’s for instance held an Instagram contest whereby people were asked to post photos of them enjoying their ice cream. The winner from 25 different regions was then included in an advert for the product.
Mobcraft claim to be the first crowdsourced brewery, with consumers invited to submit either a general beer idea or, for brewers in the audience, a more specific recipe including malt bill and hops regimen. The microbrewery then lists their favorite submissions online so customers can vote for the beer that will be produced that month.
Agora launched last year along similar lines. They’re a drinks company that aim to crowdsource everything about their business, from their basic constitution to the kind of products they produce and the advertising for them.
Suffice to say, most of these examples are currently from smaller enterprises that perhaps have greater freedom to experiment and try new things. It does seem inevitable that larger players will begin utilizing the crowd more and more though. Unilever are already quite enthusiastic users of open innovation, asking the crowd for feedback on a whole range of topics to help predict future demand.