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Chipotle and Kraft Heinz use startup HowGood to track sustainability

Consumers are now demanding environmental responsibility in everything from the buildings they live in to the products they buy. Food is a big deal. As more and more food companies claim their products are “sustainable,” a Stone Ridge, New York-based startup is questioning just how good that claim is. The company is called HowGood.

HowGood analyzes thousands of ingredients – more than 33,000 to date, according to the company – looking at factors such as the product’s greenhouse gas emissions, water use, land use, the impact on soil biodiversity, potential deforestation, concern for animal welfare, etc. .

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

“HowGood provides sustainability insights,” said Alexander Gillett, CEO of HowGood. “The idea here is that we have the world’s largest food sustainability database, and companies can use it now to start making better decisions and being 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 are increasingly demanding it. Chipotle uses HowGood for its Foodprint, a measure of its carbon footprint. Kraft Heinz is a new customer, now experimenting with some of its core products.

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

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

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

“Most companies mainly complain that we rate them too harshly. And we agree with that. We agree that it is difficult. It is a difficult problem to solve, and I think that the good thing is that these companies say that, but then they trust it,” Gillett said.

HowGood currently has around 40 employees, but plans to triple that number in the coming year. Its backers include Titan Grove, Firstmark Capital, Serious Change, Danone Manifesto Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, Great Oaks Venture Capital and Astanor Ventures. The company has already raised $26.5 million.

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