Several years ago I attended a lecture given by a former Procter & Gamble executive. In his speech, he mentioned that a significant portion of households pre-wash dishes before putting them in the dishwashers. (I just found a 2002 Arthur D. Little, Inc. report that said that 15% of households pre-wash their dishes.) The executive smugly commented about how this was great for P&G -- they made money both from the sale of dishwasher detergent and dishwashing soap.
For years I've been thinking about this line and the smug executive. Specifically, the fact that people feel they have to pre-wash their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher tells me that the current dishwashing system is flawed -- there has to be a better way. Since then, I've been waiting for the day that an entrepreneur invents a better dishwashing system to eliminate the need for dishwasher detergents and soaps.
While it's not yet commercially viable, MIT Media Lab's Counter Intelligence Group recentlycreated a machine that makes dishes on demand and recycles them after the meal. The dishes are comprised of food-grade, nontoxic acrylic wafers, which are shaped into cups, bowls and plates when heated in the machine, then resume their original wafer shape when they are reheated and pressed.
The key point here is that whenever you hear someone talking smugly and/or negatively about their customers, there is probably a huge entrepreneurial opportunity to take their customers away from them.