Chipotle and Kraft Heinz use startup HowGood to track sustainability

Consumers are now demanding environmental accountability in everything – from the buildings they live in to the products they buy. The food is a great thing. While more and more food companies claim that their products are “sustainable,” New York’s Stone Ridge Company is taking a closer look at those claims. The company is called HowGood.

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

Each ingredient in each product has a different level of environmental impact, and they all change from region to region. For each product analysis, HowGood takes approximately 250 different attributes of these ingredients and reduces them all to a rating that companies can then use to improve their products.

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

“My friends like to say I can spoil any food group,” Gillette joked.

Companies are increasingly hungry for this type of data, both to achieve their sustainability goals and because more of their customers are demanding it. Chipotle is using HowGood for Foodprint, a measure of its carbon footprint, while Kraft Heinz, a new customer, is now putting some of its key items under an environmental microscope.

“We are already looking at some really interesting and favorite things with cheese, as well as vegan alternatives within the same category,” said Jonah Smith, global head of environmental social governance (ESG) at Kraft Heinz. “We are really excited that HowGood, with its extensive catalog, can really help us research carbon-friendly alternatives to sourcing as well as other ESG metrics.”

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

Gillette says the company sees an “inspiring” demand from product makers for the data, but admits that a very small portion — less than 5% — of the millions of products in HowGood’s database actually get the top rating.

“Most companies basically complain that we evaluate them too rigidly. We are OK with that. We don’t mind it being hard. It’s a hard problem to solve, and I think the great thing is that those companies say that, but then they trust it.”

HowGood has about 40 employees now, but it expects to triple that number next year. Its backers include Titan Grove, Firstmark Capital, Sirius Change, Danone Manifesto Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, Great Oaks Venture Capital and Astanor Ventures. The company has raised $26.5 million to date.

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