Know your food


After Open Sauces in November, I got interested in food again, especially the way food is presented and communicated in the context of supermarkets. There’s something deeply depressing about the presentation of fruits and veg in the UK and there is also something cultural about that presentation. When I lived in Italy, access to certain vegetables was nearly impossible. In the UK, some of my American friends can never find the right types of chilis. In a way, global is a term more easily referring to people than our food, and I consider that a good thing.

Following on from that, I wanted to get back to the essence of what food was before it reaches our markets or our local corner shop. There used to be a simple understanding not only about where food came from, but how it actually grew and how it was harvested.

2 ideas surfaced: New guerrila food labels and a new way of displaying fruits and vegetables. In a day I managed to make the first one happen, the second one I would need a partner company to try this out. If you own a cool organic fruit and veg store or stall in London please get in touch!

Idea 1:

I thought I’d design a simple food label that would come on top of existing labels, something you could keep if you wanted to that would give you at least 4 pieces of information you didn’t know.

1. What the name of the item is, and its latin name. Why? I thought it was odd we’re quite willing to learn about plants and flowers in this way and not everyday items. Is it because they’re not posh enough?

2. What the item looks like “in nature” or in its more natural environment, with roots, leaves, the whole lot. The idea is to show how it looks before it’s been cleaned up for public display. We often may forget that some thing grow under the earth or on its surface, as a fruit in a tree or hanging from plants. Zuccini for example, is more or less and un-ripened pumpkin that is picked early enough for it to still be soft. Its the same family as the cucumber, but people don’t usually eat it raw.

3. When and where it was discovered. Fruits and vegetables don’t carry history with them, but it’s fascinating what you’ll find out about how Ancient Egyptians treated the onion.

4. Any other piece of random information or history. I wanted to make sure to pique someone’s interest enough that they’d want to know more or keep the label. I found out that the asparagus plant is protected by the tomato plant from insects for example.

All pictures of the project are on Flickr and were professionally executed by Matt Biddulph :)


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Founder of designswarm & the Good Night Lamp. Ex CEO of Tinker London, Head of Bulb Labs till May 2019.

5 thoughts on “Know your food”

  1. yes! excellent! as someone who’s quite keen on growing his own spuds (and then eating them and *enjoying every bite*), I think this is ace. the presentation of food in supermarkets (particularly here in the UK) is depressing, to put it mildly.

    I’ve noticed that sainsburys has recently started selling “Value” fruits and vegetables at knock-down prices, but with the words: “no lookers, but still taste great” (or something similar). it’s almost as if they feel guilty about selling something that isn’t stock-photo perfect.

  2. I like your idea a lot.
    I have recently been planning (together with Slovene artist, Franc Purg) a guerilla-gardening idea that would include RFID – and arduino – to identify where the plants started to grow. People could then take little portable reader packs, scan the plants, and listen to information about their background, growing conditions, recipes etc. It would be nice to have a little sign to make identification easier, such as your beautifully designed food labels. Let me know what you think…

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