PLANT BASED BADGE
Plant basedOne of the most common requests we receive from our users is for a plant based badge. This reflects a growing trend among UK consumers to eat more plants and less meat, fish and animal products. For some this involves moving to a vegan diet although for many others it entails shifting to more plant based foods within their diet. This shift has created a huge increase in plant based offerings in the supermarket covering everything from plant based milks to ready meals as well as a timely reminder about the benefits of the simple fruit and vegetable aisles. Our aim with the plant based badge is to help users navigate this ever growing selection with a simple to understand badge which includes both processed foods which are plant based but also unprocessed foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains. People’s motivation for moving to more plant based diets are varied but animals, health and the environment are most commonly cited. In terms of the environment the sustainability benefits are clear. A diet which is mainly plant based reduces carbon emissions by around 40% compared to a typical UK diet as well as using less land and less water. This is partly because a high proportion of the carbon emissions from a typical UK diet come from meat, especially beef and lamb, and also because land for animals and animal feed accounts for 77% of all agricultural land but just 18% of the calories. In terms of health the benefits of a fully plant based diet are still much debated but the foundations of a healthy diet have been clearly laid out by the World Health Organisation for many years. The WHO’s guidelines suggest that a healthy diet should include fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils and beans), nuts and whole grains (e.g. oats, wheat and brown rice) as well as at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. In short a diet high in plant based products. Guidance from the NHS is also helpful in this area highlighting the need for good planning to get all the nutrients you need. For the badge itself a green badge is awarded to products which meet at least one of our two criteria. Criteria 1: Fruit, vegetables, nuts, pulses and grains are automatically awarded the badge based on their category (i.e. all of these food groups are naturally plant based). However, we have also added an ingredient checker which looks for animal products just in case they are still found in some products. It should always be noted that with so many products, ingredient names and data quality issues that there is always a risk that some animal products or derivatives are missed. As a result users should always read the ingredients list if there are particular ingredients that they are choosing to avoid. Criteria 2: For other foods, of which processed food makes up a large component, we award the plant based badge to any product which is classified as suitable for vegans by the manufacturer or which had been independently certified. In particular we look for certification by the Vegan Society. A small number of drinks, predominantly tea and coffee, are also covered. With over 23,000 products being awarded the Plant Based badge there are plenty of options for anyone looking to eat a more sustainable diet.
Better Badges December 2019
We’ve also made a number of other further improvements over the month.
Information on how we award badges
We have rewritten, and hopefully improved, our descriptions for how products are awarded badges and highlighted the difference between different coloured badges. Green badges are for sustainability, red for health, blue for fairness and purple for Hero Products. A grey badge means that we could not award the badge. Descriptions for each badge are available both in the app and also on our website.
Organic certification means that fish are given more space to shoal, an organic and natural diet and have a reduced risk of disease and sea lice. As a result organic certification has been added to the Responsibly Sourced badge although, at present, only covers a small percentage of fish and shellfish available in the supermarket.
A very small number of companies are starting to have their products certified as carbon neutral. Despite their being very few of them these companies are in the vanguard and so deservedly are now awarded the low carbon footprint badge. Certification is by independent third parties starting with the CarbonNeutral Protocol managed by Natural Capital Partners.
Some products have EU protected status which means that only products from that area can use the name. Examples include Melton Mowbray pork pies and Stilton. As a result we can use this to find UK made products.
Search and Alternatives
We continue to look for ways to improve both the search and alternatives features in the app. This month we have been tweaking our algorithms to give our users a better experience.
We have also been working on data quality and badge consistency in a number of areas:
- The Organic badge is no longer applied to certain pet categories for which it was not appropriate.
- Skin and haircare products with insufficient data are given a greyed out No Chemicals of Concern badge.
- We have added an ingredient search on types of fish to award the Responsibly Sourced badge across a wider range of products. Specifically this affects ready made food and frozen meals.
- Whilst we always prefer data consistency many brands use idiosyncratic language. We continue to add these, where appropriate, and this month added a number for Better Packaging as well as some variants on the standard OPRL