Clean Label

Does this product contain a minimal number of simple ingredients?

An overview of HowGood's Clean Label attribute methodology, for use in external communications

What does the Clean Label attribute measure?

HowGood’s Clean Label attribute recognizes food products that have a minimal number of minimally processed ingredients. A fewer number of ingredients that do not require high-intensity processing yields products with a much lower impact on the environment. Products that qualify for Clean Label have a simple formula with seven or fewer ingredients that are all minimally processed. Products that receive the Minimally Processed attribute have ingredients that are not dependent on commercial or industrial processing. Low-intensity processes such as minor heat or fermentation, mechanical processing, and physical extraction are a few examples of ingredient processes that would qualify. On the contrary, chemical processing, industrial fermentation, and use of solvents are examples of high-intensity processes.

How long does a product qualify for the Clean Label attribute?

Products that qualify for Clean Label receive access to the attribute for public-facing communications for one year. At the end of the annual contract, products must be reassessed based on the current industry benchmark to re-qualify.

What does the Clean Label attribute mean for consumers?

The Clean Label attribute provides consumers with an indicator of the intensity of an ingredient’s transformation, as indicated by the degree of processing involved in producing its ingredients. It’s easy-to-digest and guides consumers toward decisions that are in line with their health goals and dietary preferences. By purchasing Clean Label products, consumers can take a step toward making more informed choices on what they choose to purchase.

What is HowGood’s research methodology for calculating the Clean Label attribute?

The Clean Label product attribute rewards low-intensity ingredient processing. To receive the Clean Label attribute, products must only contain ingredients that are not dependent on commercial/industrial processing to exist. Minor heat or fermentation, mechanical processing (e.g., milling of grain), and physical extraction (e.g., expeller pressing of olives) are examples of low-intensity ingredient processes accepted for this attribute. The ingredient may be augmented by the food system but not created by it. Some ingredients ubiquitous in the food system used as supplements added in small quantities to enrich foods are included as minimally processed despite being dependent on commercial/industrial processing, and constitute the notable exception to this rule.

HowGood’s underlying methodology for calculating processing impact used in the Clean Label attribute involves:

1. Data Collection: HowGood draws on a diverse collection of data sources, including peer reviewed journal articles to identify the level of intensity applied in the production of food ingredients. For each ingredient processing type, or combination of processing types, HowGood researchers identify the relevant steps to transform the ingredient, including the energy and chemical inputs required. Our experts identify when an ingredient only requires low-intensity processing. HowGood also maintains a record of and references the NOVA classification system on the level of ingredient processing. NOVA is limited in its coverage of ingredients compared to the breadth of the HowGood library, hence its use as a reference.

2. Ingredient Mapping: Once the data is collected and analyzed, HowGood conducts a proprietary process of mapping each ingredient to its source crop, animal or material. Using global import/export data and HowGood industry partnerships, HowGood then maps each source crop to its corresponding geographic location to account for the specific on-the-ground practices, impacts, and risks in each locale.

3. Data Aggregation: HowGood, to date, has mapped nearly every ingredient, chemical and material (33,000 in total) in the CPG food industry, including where and how it is produced. This mapping is used to aggregate data across geographic regions or ingredient categories and develop industry-average impact profiles for processing types and energy usage across every ingredient.

Based on the ingredient mapping process, HowGood assigns a default location and corresponding industry-average profile for every ingredient in a product. If deeper levels of data granularity are available (from a specific supplier, industry partner, or publication), these specifics are applied.

What data sources does HowGood use to assess processing impact?

What is HowGood’s research methodology?

HowGood has 15 years of research on global food supply chains. The team consolidates and analyzes findings from over 600 accredited data sources and certifications. These include a range of resources such as peer reviewed Life-Cycle-Assessment studies, journal articles, academic conference proceedings and texts, aggregated commercial databases, targeted industry studies, NGO research, and government publications. HowGood is dedicated to not only employing the most industry-recognized methodologies but also ensuring that the latest scientific research is incorporated. Metrics and impact assessments are updated accordingly, on an ongoing basis, making HowGood’s platform the leading-edge tool for product sustainability. In turn, HowGood is able to provide impact assessments that are always accurate, comprehensive, and the most up-to-date. Through the HowGood platform, we are able to scale this approach across products, brands, and the entire food industry.

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