Grocery Transportation: Reimagining a Sustainable Shift in Honda’s Trunk Design

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The transportation of groceries is an important aspect of our daily lives, yet it often goes overlooked in terms of innovation and improvement. In this paper, I will dive into the question of how the transportation of groceries can be improved. I will address both the difficulties faced by grocery shoppers and also the important issue of food waste. More specifically, I will explore the convergence of vehicle design and grocery transportation. This will shed some light on the gap in the market that HONDA would like to address. By understanding how this disconnect impacts grocery shoppers and by recognizing the large consequences of food waste, I hope to see how design could reimagine the future of grocery transportation in HONDA vehicles and hopefully also contribute to a more sustainable and safe approach to grocery transportation. 

But why does the transportation of groceries need to be improved? Through secondary research I discovered that the complications faced during transportation of food items are one of the leading causes of food waste (Feeding America). I also learned that perishable grocery items are only safe to consume for two hours outside of refrigeration (Consumer Reports). Unsafe transportation of groceries leads to food waste, and this is a very important issue that needs to be addressed. 

I conducted a survey to better understand the relationship between vehicles and groceries. From my survey I found that most people put their groceries in the trunk. And most of the people who put their groceries in their trunk are SUV drivers. I narrowed in on the transportation of groceries in the trunk of an SUV. In a separate journal activity, I asked a group of people to describe their grocery shopping trip step by step. This is an example of a grocery shopping trip completed by one of the participants. 

As you can see, if this participant had bought a perishable item at store #1, this item would no longer have been safe to consume by the time they returned home. I also asked these participants to describe any difficulties they faced while grocery shopping. The majority described something that happened during the transportation of their groceries. The participants said things like, “Groceries move around in trunk. Not secure.” and “Things weren’t as cold as I thought they should be.” I then asked these participants to take a photo of their groceries once they load them into their trunk at the store and another picture after they drive home. This part of the activity allowed me to see how groceries shift in the trunk and how people pack their groceries in their trunks. So with all of this, I found that most of the pain points described by grocery shoppers relates to transporting their groceries home from the store; I have narrowed in on how perishable groceries travel home in the trunk of SUVs. 

Example of photos from grocery shopping journal.

Grocery shoppers have a need for perishable items to be transported safely. I used a tool that allows for brainstorming through different world views or different perspectives with a variety of priorities. This allowed for diverse ideation. Through this tool I formed some ideas. While each idea isn’t a viable answer to the questions at hand, they did provide some valuable insights. Such as the fact that all of the designs are reusable and have a focus on convenience.

There are designs that already address grocery transportation. So, what keeps grocery shoppers from using these designs? I found a secondary resource that helps to explain this question. MaCorr research Industries conducted a market research study on the habits of grocery shoppers and sustainable practices. The study concluded that the number one reason people don’t use reusable bags is forgetfulness (MaCorr Research Industries). This means that sustainability revolving around grocery shopping currently lacks convenience. Consumers need a solution that is convenient and easy to use. This not only applies to sustainability but it applies to safely transporting perishable groceries, as well. If there was an integrated design into the trunk of your vehicle, the option to forget is taken away. If the design is not convenient, grocery shoppers will not remember to use it. This same study by MaCorr Research Industries also concluded that grocery shoppers who want to be sustainable have to go out of their way to do so. This project aligns with the sustainable values of many grocery shoppers, through reusability. By encouraging reusability within an integrated design, the reliance on single-use plastics, which are a significant environmental concern, could be reduced. The design may also incorporate a way to keep perishable items at the correct temperature which could reduce food waste. The question arises, how can design support grocery shoppers in their sustainability efforts while simultaneously providing a solution for transporting groceries safely? How can design reduce the amount of damaged or spoiled food items? Grocery shoppers experience frustration with transporting their groceries home, as described in the journal activity. Grocery shoppers don’t practice sustainability because it isn’t convenient, as described by MaCorr Research Industries. If perishable grocery items are handled correctly food waste can be reduced, as described by Feeding America.

What does this mean for design? What are some possible avenues to explore? One possible avenue to explore is integration into the trunk of the HONDA Pilot. This would address the convenience aspect of my problematic by helping to reduce user frustration. Another avenue to explore is the safety of perishable food items. If the groceries are transported in a temperature controlled environment then food waste could be decreased. The third avenue to explore is reusability. Reusability is a big factor in sustainable practices, and is an important element to HONDA as it relates to their sustainable practices. As described in an article on Hondanews.com, “HONDA By 2050 HONDA’s “Triple Action to Zero” approach plans to make new products from 100% materials” (Shirts to Insulators).

Creating an integrated design to address the difficulties associated with transporting groceries from the store to your home, while simultaneously tackling user frustration, food waste, and promoting sustainable practices, presents a compelling opportunity. This possible plan aims to allow grocery shoppers to have the confidence and convenience they need to easily transport their groceries and to conveniently prioritize sustainability.

The current grocery shopping experience commonly lacks the necessary convenience and sustainability measures, and this leaves consumers seeking a more streamlined and eco-friendly solution. To help bridge this gap, I imagine an integrated design that fits into the trunk of the HONDA Pilot. This could effectively transform the vehicle into the best, safest, most convenient method of transporting groceries. This approach could not only enhance the shopping experience but also contribute to the safety and preservation of perishable items. This could minimize food waste and promote sustainable choices.

There is potential for this grocery transportation concept to extend beyond the individual consumers. It could be scaled up to reimagine the way food items are transported at a larger, more industrial scale. Expanding this concept to larger vehicles, such as semis and freight trucks, presents an interesting opportunity to enhance the safety and sustainability of the entire food supply chain. Expanding the integrated design concept beyond the individual consumer and to larger vehicles in the food supply chain presents a compelling vision for a more sustainable future. By addressing food safety, reducing food waste, and encouraging sustainability, this approach has the potential to transform the way food is transported benefiting not only consumers, but businesses and the environment, too.

I have outlined the stakeholders, features, and attributes relating to this project. HONDA and Grocery shoppers are the two main stakeholders. These stakeholders require different things. HONDA has a specific visual brand language to follow, such as conservative and reliable design and they also have certain materials and processes they use, such as polypropylene and leather. Grocery Shoppers, specifically SUV drivers, need a more convenient and sustainable way to transport perishable items in their trunks.

In conclusion, with this project I could explore and address the questions related to the transportation of groceries, with a focus on an integrated design into the trunk of the HONDA Pilot. Through a combination of research methods, including surveys, journal activities, and secondary research, I have found interesting insights into the challenges faced by grocery shoppers and the opportunities to improve this experience while promoting sustainability. Food waste, a leading concern in today’s world, often stems from complications during the transportation of perishable items. Convenience plays an important role in promoting sustainability, as shoppers are more likely to adopt eco-friendly practices when they are easy to incorporate into their routines. What better way than to integrate a design into the vehicle used for grocery shopping?  The concept of integrating a design solution into the trunk of the HONDA Pilot presents a promising path to pursue these challenges. An integrated design could offer the convenience and safety that grocery shoppers need, while also aligning with HONDA’s values of reliability and sustainability. This design possibility could reduce food waste, promote the use of reusable materials, and potentially even minimize the carbon footprint associated with grocery transportation if implemented on a larger scale. By integrating innovative solutions into the HONDA Pilot trunk, there is an opportunity to reimagine the grocery shopping experience, reduce food waste, and promote sustainable practices.

Works Cited:

From shirts to insulators: Recycled Honda uniforms find new utility in vehicles. Honda Corporate Newsroom. (2023, August 10). https://hondanews.com/en-US/hondacorporate/releases/release-5003aaa39c009393f5d06d620f07d401-from-shirts-to-insulators-recycled-honda-uniforms-find-new-utility-in-vehicles

Hirsch, J. (n.d.). Keeping groceries safe in a hot car. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/keep-groceries-food-safe-in-hotcar/#:~:text=Avoid%20the%20trunk.,if%20air%20circulates%20around%20them.

Unearthing the truth about reusable grocery bags. MaCorr Research Blog. (n.d.). https://www.macorr.com/blog/p=142#:~:text=53%25%20still%20buy%20single%2Duse,reusable%20polypropylene%20or%20fabric%20bags