I worked on one of several design sprints that Table XI did for Tyson Foods. With our help, they launched something huge transformative, innovative, and industry-changing. Raised & Rooted is Tyson Food’s line of plant-based and alternative meats product. As part of their brand launch, it includes chicken nuggets made with 100% plants. And guess what? I got to make nuggets with a renowned Culinary Ninja.
Along with our friends at Lift Collective, we went through several weeks of super interesting ethnographic research, during which I learned that I love talking to people about their food habits. And going through their pantries. All this for the sake of creating a new, plant based protein product I could feel good about eating.
Our work with Tyson leveraged some of the traditional aspects of a Google Design Sprint, but we also worked on many other activities that were best suited for food products. For this sprint, we adjusted the activities and the timing to ensure we got executive feedback at just the right time, so they made informed decisions at crucial points. Our prototypes were literally food, and our user testing involved, well, eating.
We also thought a lot about branding. Tyson wanted to launch an entire line of products under the new brand, and a separate branding sprint was done in parallel. I also learned (a ton) about how a huge company like Tyson times products going to market, subtle nuances of how packaging works, and why it's a big deal to take a shopper from the fresh aisle to the frozen case. Not to mention the implications that putting meat-alternatives next to animal meat could have on people who are "turned off" by meat, etc. I can tell you with confidence that nothing about food manufacturing is easy.
Although I joke about making nuggets, one of the real highlights of this project for me was going so deep with user research. I don't just mean talking to people about what they eat or what they buy - but really understanding the social and cultural effects of their choices. Although we talked to many flexitarians, some of the people I talked to were raising the first generation of vegan children - kids who are not growing up eating meat. That's welcome mindblowing for me. My hairnet goes off to the Tyson Innovation Lab team who takes so much time and pays such attention to detail to make sure they are solving for the right problem. Digital or edible, user research really, really matters. I met great people at Tyson who deeply care about and respect their customers' beliefs and understand their motivations to be better humans that have a positive impact on the planet. That type of empathy in product development is the best part about Design Thinking.
You can read more about our work in this blog post from Mark Rickmeier, CEO of Table XI.
Getting nuggets ready for testing with Rex Chekal (on the left) and Tyson's Chef Kang Kuan and Joyce Liao.