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UK start-up launches carbon labels for restaurants and food businesses

UK start-up launches carbon labels for restaurants and food businesses

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Foodsteps, a food technology start-up that allows businesses to easily calculate, reduce and label the environmental impact of their food, has formally launched in the UK.

The company is the first UK-based tech firm to provide carbon tracking and impact labelling to restaurants and caterers as well as food businesses. 

Founded by Cambridge University alumni Anya Doherty, the firm was created in response to the challenges facing food businesses looking to improve their sustainability and reach net zero.

Historically, food companies have lacked access to a standard database where they can easily find out the environmental impact of their recipes and ingredients. This was one reason why Tesco’s ambition to introduce carbon labelling across the food sector failed in 2012.

In response, Foodsteps has developed the world’s first ‘impact database’ based on the most up to date scientific data regarding food life cycle impacts which incorporates carbon footprint, pollution, water use and land use impacts from farm to fork to waste. Based on UK food consumption, the database contains impact data of over 1,000 ingredients.

Developed alongside world-leading scientists and academics at Cambridge University, Foodsteps’ database provides the breakthrough knowledge that could allow for widespread carbon labelling adoption across the industry should it be made mandatory by the UK Government. 

Anya Doherty, CEO and Founder of Foodsteps, said: “Restaurants, caterers, and food providers are increasingly looking for ways to review, improve and demonstrate their action on sustainability. Foodsteps allows them to do that, by giving them access to the latest technology and data, without the commitment and fees associated with traditional carbon assessments.

“With our platform, consumer tools and carbon labelling capabilities, brands can differentiate themselves in the market and communicate with customers in ways they never have before. It is my belief that if we can make assessing and communicating environmental information in the food industry more accessible and standardised, there is no reason why it won’t become as widespread as nutritional information.”

Providing the technology for food businesses to reach net-zero

With the database at its core, the company promises to bring a new era of technology to the food industry, disrupting how businesses evaluate and communicate sustainability to customers. The firm is more than just a carbon labelling company, offering three technology solutions to help businesses become leaders in sustainability – a cloud-based platform, labelling capability and QR code scanning.

On the platform, food providers can upload recipes and view the sustainability impact of each ingredient. The platform can be used to monitor targets, develop new recipes and improve a menu or product’s sustainability. 

From there, companies can choose to print their own labels to clearly communicate the environmental impact of a product. These labels provide a traffic light rating from A-F (A meaning low environmental impact, F meaning high environmental impact) and have been deemed the most effective in influencing consumer decision making. The labels were developed following the world’s largest study into carbon labelling conducted by Cambridge University and co-led Doherty that tested labels on 85,000 consumers.

Food companies can also make use of Foodsteps’ virtual education tools with each label containing a QR code that buyers can scan to learn more about the products’ impact and what the company is doing on sustainability.  

Rising demand for a new way of measuring environmental impacts

Foodsteps is one of the UK’s first cloud-based food sustainability platforms to launch widely to the market, meaning businesses no longer need to pay expensive one-off consultancy fees traditionally required with carbon assessment and certification projects. 

Prior to the company officially launching, the company has already seen rising demand across the industry – from restaurants, catering companies and food delivery services – looking to work with the firm to improve and communicate their action on sustainability. Clients include leading universities and caterers, such as UCL, recipe box delivery services Gousto and Detox Kitchen as well as healthcare company BUPA. Previous projects have spanned from calculating and benchmarking food waste against competitors to measuring carbon footprints to help inform net-zero targets.

The formal launch of the company and its platform follows the completion of its pre-seed funding round backed by Techstars and COREAngels. It is now looking to expand its work in the sector by targeting the UK’s largest food brands and manufacturers to help them achieve their net-zero targets.

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