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A major electronics company and its food-waste disposer (FWD) brand offered several tiered models (i.e., good, better, best). The company had conducted prior concept and communication development research to identify and measure the importance of dimensions consumers use to evaluate FWDs before purchase. However, little research had been done to assess how consumers evaluate performance and what differences are noted among units after purchase and during use. 

Therefore, the company wanted to conduct comprehensive research to understand the benefits that consumers use to evaluate FWDs in a real-world environment and how much they discriminate between different levels on these dimensions. The findings were used to identify benefits/features to better position the premium model within the portfolio.


The company lacked a holistic understanding of how consumers use FWDs—our client’s brand, as well as similarly-priced competitive brands—including ease of installation, under-sink space required, the type/size of food waste accommodated, throughput (time to complete grind), completeness of grind (residue), output particle size, noise level, etc.

Of particular interest was how consumers gauge performance. Typically, FWDs lack electronic controls (i.e., sensors, light on kitchen counter area) that communicate how a job is progressing, when it is completed, and how thoroughly it was performed. As such, consumers rely heavily on auditory cues, visual inspection, and/or putting an implement or hand into the cavity (not when on!) to understand these elements and gauge success.

Importantly, the company wanted to determine the level to which consumers can discriminate between levels of benefits and identify features that drive satisfaction in the FWD experience. The learning was used to better position the premium model within the portfolio.


The research revealed that FWD performance was driven by several factors, including:

  • Grind efficiency
  • Completeness of disposer
  • Durability
  • Disposer time
  • Sensory cues/sounds
  • Mess
  • Safety

Using these factors, we could identify a hierarchy of performance and satisfaction across the models tested. The research validated that users experienced a noticeable difference and higher satisfaction in moving from the lower tier to the premier model. The premier model also generated greater satisfaction than competitive models. This allowed the brand to craft communication, price and market the premier model at a higher level of performance that they were confident consumers would notice. The research also helped the brand to communicate differences in each model, thus crafting a clear step-up story.


C+R designed a multi-phase research approach leveraging qualitative and quantitative research.

Phase I qualitative consisted of nine in-home video ethnographies to identify the criteria consumers use to evaluate food-waste disposer models. To participate, consumers had to agree to have their current disposer upgraded to the premier model (the price, tier, and brand were masked). The conversation started with an evaluation of their current unit, including performance variables/cues and unmet needs, and then progressed to an evaluation of the new, premier food-waste disposer. Participants processed standardized food waste (chicken bones, vegetable/fruit matter) in comparing FWD units. From this phase emerged critical performance criteria including food type, particle size, capacity, grind time, grind effort, residue, vibration, sound level, and grind completion.

In Phase II quantitative, C+R conducted a central location test at a professional kitchen containing 8 sinks with FWD units, including the client’s 3 models as well as a competitive model. Eighty triangle tests were conducted across 17 respondents to understand if the models could be distinguished from one another. Within each test, the respondent loaded a pre-cut batch of food waste into the chamber, turned on the water, and then the disposer. They let the disposer run until they sensed it was finished. They did this across three disposers: two were the same, one was different. Disposer operation was timed from start to finish. After operating all three disposers, respondents completed a survey and chose which one was different from the other two. Additionally, 30 sequential monadic evaluations were conducted across 30 respondents. After testing each food waste disposer, the respondent completed a survey evaluating their experience before moving on.

This project was logistically complex in the product itself, its installation, the experience (including creating multiple identical batches of food “waste” to dispose of) and the analyses. However, it was executed flawlessly and resulted in actionable learnings for the client, and a notch on C+R’s belt for several days of logistical execution and pounds and pounds of finely ground up food waste.

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