What can the receipt tell us about the climate impact?
Updating your score on Evocco is easy, simply photograph your food shopping shopping receipt, upload it through the app, and your Evocco score. But how does this actually work? What magic information is available on the receipt that lets us calculate the impact of a food product?
What happens to the receipt photograph?
When you upload a receipt photo to Evocco, we use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to identify the text in the image and from that the food products that you purchased. These products are then matched to Evocco scores in our database, which appear as a star rating in the app.
But how can you calculate a score based solely on the receipt text?
The text on the receipt tells us what type of food you purchased, but not necessarily where it came from, or how it’s packaged, so there's more that goes on behind the scenes to give an Evocco score.
The first thing to understand here is the breakdown of the climate impact of a food product between the different input areas. You can read more about it here, but in short the vast majority of a food’s impact comes from the production stage. That’s how the food is grown and how it’s processed. This means that the type of food you buy is much more important than where it comes from, or how it’s packaged. So, even if we just recognise the type of food that you bought from your receipt, we can still give quite an accurate score.
Climate impact data on the production of foods isn't available on a farm by farm or factory by factory basis yet, as in most cases it's simply not recorded. In the cases where it is recorded, brands often choose not to disclose it. This means that the Evocco score can’t differentiate between brands yet as the data simply isn’t available. Instead, we use data describing the climate impact of producing food on a regional level, with adjustments made for different production methods. The process of calculating the climate impact of a product is called life cycle assessment (LCA), and you can read more about it here.
To account for the packaging and transportation of a product as best as possible we make assumptions for origin and packaging based off commonly purchased products in Irish supermarkets. We take information from retail sites like Tesco online, and use the mass, origin and packaging information as reference points. For example, our score for milk is based off a two litre plastic container of milk produced in Ireland. Our score for butter is based off a 250g tub of butter produced in Ireland. Our score for bananas are based off a loose bunch of bananas imported from Costa Rica. For foods which we don’t have obvious reference points for, we use import and export statistics to allocate an average figure for the transportation of that food product.
We work with our partners Eaternity to deliver what is the best estimate of the climate impact of a food product that you are likely to find, and is based on leading scientific research. This climate impact data is then combined with nutritional information to create the Evocco star rating. You can read more about how this is evolving here. To improve the accuracy of the scores that we provide, we’re always looking to collaborate with food companies. If they’re willing to provide some extra information about how they specifically produce their products, we can help them calculate a bespoke score and show that on the app to differentiate themselves from the generic.
If you represent a food brand that's interested, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.