KLM intercontinental breakfast

How do you make airline food more appealing? The missing ingredient turned out to be less about food and more about engagement.


more positive emotions

2 yrs

rotation span

What was the challenge?

The Dutch national airline company KLM wanted to improve the economy-class breakfast served on intercontinental flights. Although economy-class meals are already not known to make people happy, their evaluations showed that the breakfast was particularly disliked. KLM had already attempted to improve the recipes and the design of the packaging, but this did not have much impact.

What did we do?

We captured people’s emotions on board before, during and after the breakfast was served. We followed up with interviews to find out which needs were behind the emotions, using our Deep user needs method. We used the insights to develop a radical new breakfast concept.

What did we discover?

The two emotions that stood out in our measurement were boredom and disgust. Through the interviews, we discovered the source of these emotions. Passengers had two important needs left unfulfilled: the need for mental stimulation and the need for control. These needs had less to do with the meal itself, and more with the circumstance in which it was served. By the time passengers receive breakfast, they have already been strapped in their seat for about eight hours and have tried every form of entertainment. Passengers also have almost no control over their morning ritual – unable to move or to determine when to receive breakfast. All these unfulfilled needs spilled over into the evaluation of the breakfast. This inspired us to create a radically new breakfast concept that addresses these needs.

What did we deliver?

Together with design agency Reframing Studio, we developed Morning Tapas, an economy-class breakfast that gives people something to explore (mental stimulation) at their own convenience (control). This is achieved with clever design. The breakfast is kept warm by a transparent lid, letting the passenger choose when to start breakfast. Inside they find several compartments with different foods and condiments, that passengers could mix and match. The breakfast deliberately left out instructions, so people could experiment with different combinations. In addition to the final product, we delivered several other fruitful concepts and a visual and richly detailed overview of the passengers’ on-board emotional journey, which KLM used for several other purposes.

What was the impact for the client?

We did post-measurements and found that people were much happier. People experienced 75% more positive emotions, while the negative emotions had mostly vanished. The breakfast was so well liked that KLM used it as their standard breakfast for two years, much longer than the typical time span for an airplane meal.

Consumer insights

The service we used for this project

Go way beyond traditional ‘market research’ to dig out the nitty gritty details of user needs with quotes, images, videos.

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