Giki’s aim is to inspire people to make small, regular changes which are good for them, better for the environment and fairer to others. We also look to make small, regular changes to Giki in order to help support our users in their quest to buy more sustainably. Here we talk about some of the most recent changes at Giki. We know we will never be perfect, but we hope that by constantly listening to our users, and improving, we’ll get better and better over time.
More products added by users
We now have almost 1000 products which have been added by our incredible users! This is fantastic and many of them often get awarded plenty of badges. Thanks to our data ninjas for helping the whole community.
Carbon footprints for individual products remain rare. However, there are an increasing number of academic studies which look at food and drink categories to help us understand what the average carbon footprint for a product in a category might look like. We have linked a number of these studies to our data library in this release. The main benefit is that more supermarket items are now covered. We have also been able to provide closer matches (for example finding studies that cover potatoes rather than root vegetables) and use either more up to date studies or a large number of them. As a result some categories have also changed the most notable one being milk. Plant based milks will continue to receive the low carbon footprint badge.
At the same time we have also changed our rating methodology from 1(low) to 3(high) to include a 4(very high). This new category is needed because the “high” category previously had a wide spread of carbon emissions and those at the top end (for example red meat) are now included in the very high category. Badges continue to be awarded to products in the “low” category.
Palm oil review
Following the launch in 2018 of the palm oil detector we have performed an extensive review of companies where some of their products are not being correctly captured. The reason we needed to do this is that our sustainable palm oil badge looks for palm oil ingredients and then links that product to the parent company. This is harder than it sounds! Lack of information, complex corporate structures and poor data all contribute to there being products which we cannot “link” to the parent company. We have made many improvements in this release but please do contact us if you see any others. A good rule of thumb is that if you find a brand with sustainable palm oil then all products from that brand should have the same badge awarded if the product contains palm oil.
We are also aware that a palm oil free badge is something that many of our users are asking for. If you agree please tell us here.
Nuts and oils healthy
Nuts and oil, in moderation, are healthier options as long as they don’t have anything added to them (e.g. salt). This is now reflected in the badges.
Improvements to additives list
We have been working with other similar apps all over the world and our collaboration with Desrotulando in Brazil has been especially helpful as we have done a full review of all our additives with them. We have added more pseudonyms for additives we already have, included modified starches (commonly found in many processed foods) and also included ingredients which are similar to high fructose corn syrup. Whilst the latter is not covered by E numbers it remains one of the key ingredients that consumers want to know about.
As part of this research we compiled a list of all ingredients that are found in UK supermarket food. The two most commonly found ingredients are…salt and sugar.
If you’re a fellow techforgood app that’s trying to help consumers get transparent access to the information they care about then please get in touch. We believe that collaboration offers the best chance of success.
Additional chemicals of concern
At Giki we want to make information quickly available to consumers across the thirteen areas we cover. However, we are also not experts in all these areas. For this reason not only do we have an Advisory Board which includes members from WWF, Oxfam and CDP but we also regularly talk to scientific expects about the key issues in their area. One such discussion with Chemsec highlighted a small number of chemicals for review and, as they met our criteria to be a chemical of concern, they have been added to the list. The most common of these is Methylisothiazolinone. Harder to pronounce, and also pretty hard on the skin as a known allergen. Methylisothiazolinone is also a cytotoxin which means it can be toxic to cells.
Our thanks go to Chemsec and indeed to all our growing list of experts who advise us on the details around our badges.
Capturing more brands which don’t test on animals
At present Giki looks at product labels and company wide information to see whether products, or their ingredients, are tested on animals. As always it should be noted that for Cosmetics (not household products) this is outlawed in Europe but this does not mean that a company does not test on animals (often for regulatory reasons) in other parts of the world. However, we have now also included a check of brands to see whether they test on animals. It is particular noteworthy that a number of UK supermarket brands are approved by Cruelty Free International (for example Waitrose, the Co-op and Morrisons) and so their cosmetics and household products will now be awarded the animal testing badge.
Where we do not award a badge this is always because we have not been able to verify that a company does not test on animals, It is never a statement that we believe they do.
In the last release we made big improvements to our alternatives but they still need more work! One particular issues was that alternatives were sometimes coming from totally different supermarket aisles because the names were similar (for example a “free range” egg and “free from” gluten flour). We’re still working on an improvement that shows vegetarian and vegan alternatives if that’s what you have searched on.
UK made products
Sometimes products explicitly and directly tell us that they are “made in the UK”, sometimes we can imply it (e.g. “handmade in the Lake District”) but sometimes it’s only on company websites where it is clear. We are working to include more of these companies over time and if you’re a 100% British company please let us know.
There are also a group of single ingredient foods which cannot (currently although climate change may change this…) be grown in the UK. Examples include mangos and tea. We have removed peanut butter from this list as in many instances it is made with more than one ingredient.
This highlights that the question of when a product is made in the UK remains a complex one. Products made from mainly non-UK ingredients where the processing is completed in the UK highlight the issue. If you are an expert in the area please do get in touch.
Companies that you don’t find in the supermarket
Many smaller brands which are not available in the main UK supermarkets are keenly focused on providing products which are sustainable and healthy. We have therefore started to include these in the app. Go Natural Skincare is our first one. Check them out and if you know any other companies that want to be included then please get in touch.
There are some packs which we can assume are always widely recyclable and so can give a recycling badge to. Make sure they are empty, don’t pierce them and take off any easily removable parts (e.g. the lid) and off you go.
And a small one to finish
We do not include natural flavouring as an additive. We have made a small change so that different natural flavourings are also included.