A new start-up is bidding to support the industry’s sustainability drive by launching carbon labels for restaurants and hospitality businesses in the UK.
Foodsteps, which has just completed a pre-seed funding round, says it has developed technology that will allow businesses to easily calculate, reduce and label the environmental impact of their food.
The company claims to be the first UK-based tech firm to provide carbon tracking and impact labelling to restaurants and caterers as well as food businesses.
Founder Anya Doherty set up the firm 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 created a “British-specific” impact database for food, covering more than 1,000 ingredients and incorporating carbon footprint, pollution, water use and land use impacts.
The database has been developed alongside scientists and academics at Cambridge University, and could facilitate widespread carbon labelling adoption across the industry should it be made mandatory by the UK government.
Ms Doherty 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.”
The firm offers 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-E (A meaning low environmental impact, E meaning high environmental impact) and have been deemed highly 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 by Ms 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.
Prior to its official launch, the company said it had received rising interest from restaurants, catering companies and food delivery services looking to work with the firm to improve and communicate actions on sustainability.
Clients include UCL caterers CH&Co, 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.