If your fridge is where good food goes to become a scary, stinky science experiment, you’re not the only one: 40 percent of food in the U.S. is wasted annually, much of that spoiling away in household fridges. All that waste adds up—to the tune of $162 billion. When the OXO design team started talking to customers in the name of refrigerator organization research, we quickly realized what’s causing some of that food waste.
Through our research, we learned there are so many odds and ends in most people’s fridges, that it’s hard to know how to store and find them. Deli meats, condiments, cheese, produce and eggs are crammed in any which way, getting lost behind one another and spoiling before you can enjoy them. So when we developed the new OXO refrigerator line, we focused on storage solutions, making it easier to see and access what you need.
The Planning Stage
The new OXO refrigerator organization line includes 13 products in all: a selection of clear bins and trays, shelf risers, an undershelf drawer, a bin for eggs, and a beverage mat for storing canned drinks and wine bottles. During the product development process for this line, we focused on three key principles: organization, visibility and accessibility.
The OXO design team wanted to ensure our products would fit in a majority of fridges—so they measured all the refrigerators they could find at appliance stores and asked people from several countries to send in their own fridge measurements. While in development, the designers paid close attention to how people would interact with the products, considering how comfortable the bin handles were to hold, how smoothly drawers glided, how easy products were to install and how much weight they could support. They tested durability through drop-testing and challenging how hard they could pull on handles before they’d pop off.
But the products weren’t perfected solely in a lab. Usually, when OXO tests a new product, we go to consumers’ homes, ask questions and see how people use and interact with the item. But because of the pandemic, the team had to get their info from a distance. We chose testers based on factors like family size, the type of fridges they had and whether they lived in urban or rural environments.
We then shipped testers samples based on their individual fridge storage pain points and needs; those people used the products for two weeks and took videos of the whole process. The testing “was so timely because everyone was home, and we got such good feedback,” says Krista Sherman, OXO’s Associate Director of Product Development. “People didn’t want to give the prototypes back.”
Of course, durability doesn’t matter if functionality isn’t there. “We wanted the products to work with what you want to do rather than creating a crazy organizational system that you have to maintain,” says Lua O’Brien, OXO’s Global Category Director. “So, something like a shelf riser is going to optimize the vertical space in your fridge; the drawer will optimize the depth. But none of them require a ton of thought. It’s just a beautifully organized system so that, when you open up your fridge, you know exactly where everything is.”
Common Fridge Problem Areas…and the New OXO Solutions
What are the biggest fridge organizing challenges? Here’s what testers told us:
Food in the back gets neglected. “When you can’t see what’s hiding in the back of your fridge, you forget what’s there,” O’Brien says. “So, you buy more, stuff things even farther back and eventually items go bad. The only way you find out is when you empty everything out of your fridge.” OXO Solution: The new OXO refrigerator bins are clear, so sightlines stay open and you can easily see what’s in the back when you pull them out.
There’s a hodgepodge of items. “Since everyone in the household is using the fridge, people put everything wherever they feel like it,” O’Brien says. OXO Solution: Use the fridge bins to create designated zones for similar items—like all the cheeses or the condiments.
It’s nearly impossible to keep track of kid snacks. Many testers said kid snacks are among the hardest things to keep tidy; squeeze pouches slide around, and small cheeses get buried. OXO Solution: Clear bins corral tricky snacks and make it easy to see when it’s time to restock. Put them on the middle or lower shelves where kids can reach them, too.
Certain food and drinks are just plain hard to store. When it came to this topic, a few items kept coming up:
- Beverages, particularly canned drinks
OXO Solution: The dual-sided beverage mat. “One side accommodates cans, the other side wine bottles,” Sherman says. “Plus, the beverage mat perfectly fits on top of the shelf riser and inside the bins and trays.”
OXO Solution: Clear divided bins. “With our divided bin, the divider moves, so if you have a huge jar of, say, jam you can tilt the divider a bit, then put a narrower jar of, say, soy sauce next to it; it makes a condiment station,” O’Brien says. “Pull the bin out and you can see all the condiments you have rather than rummaging through your entire fridge.”
- Deli meats
OXO Solution: The undershelf drawer. OXO designers carefully fine-tuned the technical aspects of this drawer to make it easy to install in any refrigerator. The adjustable frame can be lengthened to fit different widths, and no tools are required—just the push of a button. “It’s all very intuitive,” says Andrew Backer, a Product Engineer with OXO. “You almost don’t need an instruction manual; it all does what you think it’s going to do.”
OXO Solution: The egg bin. “This one has been a game changer for me,” Backer says. “I’d always end up having two stacked cartons of eggs—one with four eggs left and one with the full dozen. This bin will hold 20, so it’s perfect.”
Intuitive Organization You Didn’t Know You Needed
“What’s been so interesting is at first, when people hear about these products, they’re like, ‘Do I even need this?’” Sherman says. “But we sent the products home with a lot of testers, and what happens is they get completely obsessed; they want more. You try them out and you immediately see the benefit. And because we interact with our fridges, in my case many, many times a day, I think there’s this appreciation of what one little bin and a little bit of organization can do and how they can contribute to your life in a positive way on a daily basis.”
Now that you have all the tools to help your fridge live its most functional life, it’s time to perfect their use.