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Riya Anne Polcastro headshot

New Online Marketplace Helps Consumers Find Sustainable, Allergy-Friendly Foods

GreenChoice

A new food delivery service launched on Earth Day with a mission to satisfy not just consumers’ bellies, but their consciences as well. The GreenChoice marketplace seeks to engage and empower those shoppers looking for more nutritious and environmentally responsible products, but who may not necessarily have the time or knowledge to decipher labels and research production methods, while also keeping an eye out for allergens.

Founder Galen Karlan-Mason described his motivation for creating GreenChoice, which originally started as an app that rated products on nutrition and climate for in-store shopping, as a desire to carry the values he was raised with into adulthood. He recalls grocery shopping in graduate school and struggling to find food that was healthy, environmentally sustainable and also met his dietary needs when it came to food allergens. Like many shoppers, he found himself overwhelmed with options while at the same time wondering what he could actually eat.

The market appears to be ripe for such an endeavor. Thirty percent of allergen avoidant shoppers are regularly on the hunt for new products. And according to the International Food Information Council, more than 50 percent of buyers are interested in food and drink that has been produced by environmentally responsible means—but most don’t know where to start when it comes to all of the different claims.

GreenChoice aims to fill that void. Karlan-Mason told TriplePundit that he wants to focus on supporting the shopper who is flirting with a more environmentally friendly diet but who may need a little extra prodding to become more conscious. “Food is at the center of so many of the biggest challenges we face as a society,” he explained, citing agriculture as the number one cause of deforestation and poor food choices as the top contributor to death from disease.

Since what we eat is the single determining factor when it comes to our health and the health of our planet, the GreenChoice marketplace was developed to simplify the process of selecting healthy and sustainable foods. There are roughly 10,000 natural and organic products available. When they begin, each shopper is able to identify the allergens that they need to avoid from the start so that they are never shown items that they cannot consume. From there, products can be filtered and sorted by categories and special diets like Paleo, organic, no-added-sugar or other ingredient preferences.

Each product is assigned a GreenScore to further aid the consumer in their decision-making. The score is weighted on nutrition, amount of processing, food safety and environmental impact so that the buyer can decide what matters most to them and determine whether it meets their values or not. Alternative products are also shown to help nudge the buyer towards the best choice for them.

For now, all of the products listed on GreenChoice are shelf-stable, but Karlan-Mason aims to expand into frozen goods next. It’s all about where there is the most benefit to be had. Some things, like meats and produce, have relatively simple labeling that the consumer can easily decide from. Either it is organic, or it is not. Either it is local, or it is not. When it comes to shelf-stable and frozen foods, things are much more complicated.  Of course, purchasing isn’t the only way to benefit from the website; there is also a database where consumers can learn about products before they buy them at the grocery store.

For the consumer specifically concerned about their carbon footprint, there is an added benefit to ordering from the website. Carbon offsets are purchased based on the estimated carbon footprint of each order. The estimated carbon footprint can be tracked in the cart and the offsets can be tracked in the order history.

GreenChoice is available in all of the 48 contiguous United States, and with its warehouses in Indiana and Illinois, orders are delivered between two and four days. All orders are sent UPS ground to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible. At present, shipping materials consist of curbside recyclable cardboard and air pillows made from recycled plastic.

Food allergies are on the increase—each year since 1997 has seen a four percent increase in the number of children with one or more. It’s no wonder Americans spend roughly $19 billion per year avoiding allergens. As more and more shoppers turn to grocery delivery services for convenience, GreenChoice offers an alternative that can help them include their environmental values in their shopping list.

Image credit: Atoms via Unsplash

Riya Anne Polcastro headshotRiya Anne Polcastro

Riya is a writer and adventurer based out of the Pacific Northwest. She is interested in how sustainability can be harnessed to encourage economic and environmental equity between the Global South and North.

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