Do you know if your food has a low carbon footprint, whether your packaging is recyclable and whether it’s been responsibly sourced? More and more people are thinking about these, and other,  environmental questions when choosing their food as programmes such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet and the BBC’s Orangutan Diaries highlight the impact of the decision we make in the supermarket.  As a result consumers want to know a lot more about the products they are buying, and the companies they are buying them from.

The challenge is that making sustainable choices is difficult. With more than 300,000 products on offer in UK supermarkets, from thousands of brands, it’s hard to know where to start. Every single product has loads of detail on the label that people want to understand and even more information beyond the label that they want to know. Just one label can take 3 minutes to read but who has an hour to read through a shopping basket with 20 items in? That’s the same amount of time that the average person spends on Facebook and Instagram but probably a lot less exciting.

Giki’s aim is to make it simple for people to find answers to these questions so that they can find the products that match their own values and beliefs.

Here’s how it works:

1 – Use the app to scan the barcode of a product

2 – The app awards badges across 12 different areas to highlight issues that users may care about

3 – If you want products with more badges you can check out the alternatives

It’s that simple.

At the core of Giki’s approach are the badges which cover sustainability, health and fairness. Sustainability currently has the most potential badges covering: organic; recyclable packaging; greener cosmetics; responsibly sourced; kinder cleaning; low carbon footprint and local.

Each one of these issues is complex. For example organic food has many benefits including: no chemical fertilizers and pesticides, high animal welfare standards, no GMO, less leaching (fertilizer running off fields into local streams) and better soil quality. However, it is often also more expensive. Giki’s approach is to highlight the key issues and to be transparent about how we award badges. After that it’s up to the individual to decide what matters to them.

Often Giki will also only be part of the answer. Getting a general understanding of which products tend to have a higher carbon footprint is useful. However, to really understand our full carbon footprint a tool like WWF’s is invaluable. The key is that all of us continue to make small, regular changes because together that means more products that are good for you, better for the environment and fairer to others.

How does it actually work behind the scenes?

Giki’s ratings draw on a number of different sources including on pack information; government guidelines and scientific research. This data is pulled into Giki’s database which then algorithmically scores each product against all the badge options to create the individual product information. That’s how we can cover over 250,000 products but as we crunch through more than 7 million data points there will also be issues that our users uncover. In short we will not always get it right! That’s why Giki is so keen to hear from users about whether the app is user friendly, does it answer your questions correctly and what else do you want to see in it. It’s also why the process for awarding badges is overseen by our independent group of advisors who help us to translate complex issues into everyday actions.

What’s next

Giki long term vision is that all products and services become sustainable so really we want every product on the market to be awarded as many badges as possible. Right now though an Android version, more badges and more products all seem to be what users want. Tell us what you want too.