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Creative, impactful and collaborative food and beverage ventures

DesignBites investigates the co-creation and experimentation practices, networks and collaborations with diverse stakeholders, and design work of food and beverage ventures amidst their internationalisation efforts. Our aim is to share insights and support entrepreneurs in their development efforts towards better (and sustainable) business and products, inspire new people to get involved in the F&B industry, as well as create academic and practical publications.

The launch of the project in 2018 has been funded by Antti and Jenny Wihuri Foundation and we are continuing with the help of Business Finland Corona Co-creation funding. So far, we’ve focused on Finnish ventures, tracking the development activities of over 40 companies ranging from premium food and drinks with local ingredients to creating new markets and consumption patterns. Currently we are deepening our understanding of the creative responses and experiments entrepreneurs and their stakeholders are engaging in the face of the pandemic!

Stay tuned for current insights, participate in our open collaborative events and get in touch to join the project!

Contact: maria.mikkonen@aalto.fi / +358 50 452 0729


Co-creation & experimentation 

Networks & stakeholders

Creativity & role of design

Different ways of co-creating and experimenting

Most development efforts with external stakeholders we’ve seen so far can be grouped into one of four types of efforts. Frequent customer test sessions are integral to particularly flavor development efforts, such as the ice creams of Kolmen Kaverin Jäätelö. Showrooms and test laboratories are created to both promote the brands of food and beverage ventures as well as to bring consumers and business partners closer to the product development activities.

In addition to working with consumers directly, collaborating with bartenders or restaurants to co-create or gather feedback on their products has been utilized especially in beverage ventures. On the other hand, particularly in the case of new food categories products, such as cricket products, working with local smaller niche distributors such as Ruohonjuuri shop has often been an important place to introduce and test new products in the market and gather feedback from ‘early adopter’ customers.

Social media, especially Instagram and Facebook, have been very powerful tools to engage users in co-creative development efforts. Testing and collecting ideas, gathering user feedback and building interactive user communities, have been common practices throughout our cases. Moreover, when thinking about internationalization gathering user feedback across the globe has been easy and quick through different hashtags and following other food and beverage companies.

 What is being designed?

The food or drink itself, its packaging, brand and stories are the most frequent objects of design in food and beverage ventures. As one of food entrepreneur remarked:

You need to sell the product to the consumer twice, first with the package and a second time with the taste.

In addition to preserving the goods inside, package design issues focus around two issues: standing out and conveying quality. Attention to fine details is both a way of conveying quality and building stories. For example, Kyrö Distillery’s unique font was derived from an historical war memorial  and ‘the Seal of approval’ found in the bottle caps was a quirky way add something special to the mandatory seal needed for export. Stories were also built into the names of products, such as Nord-T craft tea blends like ”Barefoot biking”, ”Polar Night Cap” and ”Sunset at Noon”.

NORD-T Barefoot Biking tea / @nordtcompany

Expanding across borders

The need to understand foreign markets and customers before exporting products varies greatly between ventures. Some rely heavily on the know-how of a local importer, others prefer to personally learn about the market and build connections in the foreign surroundings. For example, in the case of Goodio, understanding the local market has been a prerequisite and vital part of the internationalization process. They personally tested sales in a number of New York stores, pre-establishing desirability to provide more leverage in negotiating with importers.

For many of our case companies, social media channels and an active presence in for example Instagram and Facebook had not only increased brand awareness and sales, but also attracted business-to-business interest from abroad. Many requests to import products, some leading to distribution agreements and sales, had come through for example an Instagram message.

Gold & Green Pulled Oats package / @goldandgreenfoods

On the other hand, new food and beverages might demand completely new markets. Here ventures might have to expand considerable effort to educate and create a demand for new ingredients and types of products. Design can help in this, for example Gold&Green creating their initial pulled oats packages to look and feel much like the minced meat packages that have been traditional staples of household cooking in Finland.

From Crisis to Creativity at the Global Specialty Coffee Market

We all know that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected many businesses globally and locally. When lockdowns and government restrictions were put in place, especially the food and beverage entrepreneurs globally needed to act quickly and find creative ways to survive the crisis.


Ever wonder about what the state of Finnish food and beverage entrepreneurship is? Well, we did, interviewing 90+ entrepreneurs, wading through piles of statistics and keeping an eye on ventures’ online presence. Based on this, we’ve compiled a very palatable package of insights!

Pressing COVID-19 pandemic: an acid test of creativity in the food and beverage industry

Product development is a team sport in small food and beverage companies, requiring creative collaboration efforts between entrepreneurs and their stakeholders. As the epidemic continues to stir the marketplace and ways of working, rapidly created novel and rebranded products, sales channels and market positioning are emerging in response to the  ongoing crisis.


For any new product to succeed, customers need to adopt it as part of their consumption habits. Food products represent specific types of consumer products in their high frequency of consumption, physiological function, actual ingestion of the product and socially embedded nature of food-related behavior, all of these adding up to the challenge of new


What will be the next big plant-based protein? Will insect food make a second coming? What is this fermentation thing that everybody seems to be talking about? Is veganism merely a fad or is it here to stay? The DesignBites research team spent last Friday at Vegemessut getting insights and perspectives on the Finnish food


Tasteful holidays and exciting New Years 2020 from our DesignBites research team!


With the brand heritage stemming from the suburban underground scene in Olari, Espoo, the namesake Olarin Panimo has not only street credibility, but also upbeat methods for their product development.


Since its founding, 3 Friends has established a permanent place in customers’ hearts and freezers with its delicious ice cream. However, when the three founders decided to venture into the realm of vegan products, they faced a completely new development challenge: how to create a vegan ice cream on a par with their quality standards?


A fair amount of experimentation, revision and courage was needed for Sunspelt to turn a product letdown into a success with a strong market positioning and an established place in customers’ kitchens.


Learn about experimentation, co-creation, product development, the role of design amongst other topics from our study of Finnish food and beverage entrepreneurs. We’ve compiled interesting case examples and learnings in this document for everyone to look into.


Tua BjörklundDesignBites