How might we rethink current frozen potato packaging to better assist commercial distributors and restaurant operators? 

The client identified their packaging as a key way of differentiating themselves from their competitors and so they wanted to hear from their customers what added value the package might have to offer.

Their current packaging was optimized for efficiency and speed within their facilities but above all to better serve their large, international fast food chains. The 6 (6 lb.) Kraft bags stuffed into a corrugated cardboard box has never really changed.



To better understand the pain points of every stakeholder in the packaging journey... 

We conducted both formal and contextual interviews at:

3   Manufacturing Plants

4   Independent Restaurants

3   Quick Service Restaurants

3   Casual Dining Restaurants

2   Distributors


For the 12 site visits, we involved the client early on by having at least one representative from their long term innovation team present for the visits, along with a lead interviewer and secondary interviewer. To ensure consistency in the interview protocol, I wrote the field guide and managed all the revisions. 


What did we learn?

Distributors diligently avoid even slightly damaged cases because they can compromise a whole pallet. But the longer a case remains in a warehouse, the more likely damage will compound. 


Quick service restaurants have lower engagement with packaging because the volumes are soo high but they are most likely to have a very high compliance rate with proper frozen potato instructions. 

Casual dining restaurants have a higher rate of engagement with packaging because they are more likely to cook per order, despite relatively high order volumes. 

All of the independents interviewed cited price as the driver of their purchasing decisions. Independents were more likely to be able to tell us how much they paid for their last order of fries rather than the brand.


How might we best communicate our learnings?


After completing the field research, the  team began a deep process of synthesis. This stage of the process is centered around getting all of the initial insights and observations out of the researcher’s heads and onto a white board or a post-it note.

This allows the team to literally immerse themselves in the collected thoughts, and looks for patterns in behaviors.


Based on the patterns we found from the primary interviews, we developed personas to help better illustrate the most common pain points with the fry packaging.

It’s important to note that the Selector and Driver interact with the box primarily, while Operators interact with both box and bag.


We then were able to map out the life cycle of the package, starting from its creation and then running through each possible use case with its respective persona in mind.  



How might we collaboratively synthesize the information?

During a two day workshop, we used the research and the client's own subject matter expertise to work through several activities and synthesize the ethnographic research into user needs, and from user needs into design principles. 

The research journey, personas, and packaging experience map were used as the basis for the workshop’s activities, with teams of working together to serve as the voice of an assigned persona throughout the workshop.


Empathy Mapping

The teams created Empathy Maps, documenting what they understood the different personas were “thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, and doing.”

Role-Playing the Experience

Team members demonstrated responsibilities of different users for each stage of the experience. The end result was a fast track toward understanding pain points of users with the existing packaging.


Blue Sky Architecture

Unencumbered by technology or price, the simple goal of this exercise was solving every pain point experienced by users today.



 Using a simple features/ benefits approach, teams had 20 minutes to sketch out their ideas in detail, and highlight the key features and what the direct benefit to users is for a given idea.


$100 Test

After a long two days of listening, thinking, and sketching, teams were asked to invest a fictional $100 in the 10 different sell sheets.



Principles for Design

Design Principles are concepts used to organize and arrange thinking based on insights and opportunities based on synthesis and research. A step in-between research insights and design concepts, design principles are not hard and fast rules, but rather, are meant to serve as criteria for success for the design team and a method of validating design concepts.



new methods to serve the “market of one”



improve ease of use, right size the offering



provide traceability, trust the box”



robust construction, ensure consistency


More with Less

reduce waste and improve experience of use


Brand Experience


engage users, convey quality



How might we make insight-driven ideas into something more tangible?

The end result of a Human-centered design process should be something that users can see, feel, and experience. The final portion of the design effort was turning ideas on paper into physical mock-ups to communicate the final design concepts


The full color adhesive label affords the use of bold, beautiful graphics to communicate variety and contents to users. In a world of brown boxes and bags, the introduction of this label creates a higher level of engagement and instantly differentiates Lamb Weston products from others.


strong box

To address the needs of warehouse selectors and delivery drivers, the Strong Corner doubles the column strength of the box, and becomes a “foundation for the foundation” of pallets of distributor pallet construction.


Combining the equity of the kraft paper with the functionality of the poly bag, this hybrid material bag is the best of both worlds. By using a clear window and printed graphics, this concept affords users to quickly identify the product. Fry Guy  cartoon can be a familiar brand touch point and teaching tool.



While the practice of pre-portioning frozen potato products before frying was known to prior to this effort, the idea behind portioning the bags as part of the manufacturing process has the potential to be a true game changer.