Chipotle and Kraft use start-up HowGood to monitor how green they are

Consumers are now demanding environmental responsibility in everything from the buildings they live in to the products they buy. Food is great. As more and more food companies claim their products are “sustainable,” a startup based in Brooklyn, New York wonders just how valid that claim really is. The company is called HowGood.

HowGood analyzes thousands of ingredients – more than 33,000 so far, the company says – by examining factors such as the product’s greenhouse gas emissions, water use, land use, impact on soil biodiversity, potential deforestation, concern for animal welfare and so on.

Each ingredient in each product has different environmental impacts, which vary from region to region. For each product analysis, HowGood takes nearly 250 different attributes from those ingredients and reduces them all to one rating, which companies can then use to improve their products.

“HowGood provides information on sustainability,” said Alexander Gillett, CEO of HowGood. “The idea here is that we have the largest database on food sustainability in the world and companies can use it now to start making better decisions and be more transparent.”

“My friends like to say I can ruin any food group,” Gillett joked.

But companies are hungry for data, both to meet their sustainability goals and because their customers demand it more and more. chipotle uses HowGood for its Foodprint, a measure of its carbon footprint. Kraft Heinz is a new customer, who is now experimenting with some of his staples.

“We are already looking at some really favorable and interesting things with cheese, as well as plant-based alternatives within the same category,” said Jonah Smith, global head of environmental social governance at Kraft Heinz. “We are very excited that HowGood can really help us, with their extensive catalog, to seek more carbon-friendly alternatives to sourcing, as well as our other ESG metrics.”

While companies like Kraft Heinz and Walmart are buying in-depth data to evaluate their products, consumers can also use the HowGood app to check the sustainability of the products they are buying.

Gillett says the company is seeing “stimulating” demand from data makers for the data, but admits that a very small fraction of the millions of products in the HowGood database actually score top marks. Less than 5%, he said.

“Most companies mostly complain that we rate them too hard. And that’s okay with us. We’re okay with it being difficult. It’s a difficult problem to solve and I think the great thing is that those companies say it, but then they trust them, ”Gillett said.

HowGood has around 40 staff now, but plans to triple that in the next year. Its supporters include Titan Grove, Firstmark Capital, Serious Change, Danone Manifesto Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, Great Oaks Venture Capital, and Astanor Ventures. The company has raised $ 26.5 million to date.