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Understanding Impact Metrics
Accounting for ingredient concentration
Accounting for ingredient concentration

An update to impact assessments to account for ingredient concentration and its effect on GHG emissions, land use and blue water usage.

Jemima Snow avatar
Written by Jemima Snow
Updated over a week ago

What’s the update?

We’re improving impact assessments by more accurately accounting for the amount of raw material required to produce an ingredient. By addressing the difference between the impact of the raw material and the ingredient, we’re able to provide a more accurate representation of the total on-farm impact of growing the total raw material required to make 1 kg of an ingredient, rather than just the impact of growing 1 kg of raw material. This update strengthens measurement of the following impact metrics:

Previously, impact assessments were based on the impact of growing or raising the raw material. This assumed a 1:1 ratio of raw material to ingredient (ie. 1 unit of raw material = 1 unit of ingredient). We are now updating our calculations to quantify the impact that is transferred from the raw material to the ingredient level.

Example: Orange juice

It takes approximately 8 oranges to produce 1kg of orange juice, hence the raw material to ingredient ratio is not 1:1. In order to accurately measure the impact of 1 kg of orange juice, we need to take into account the impact of growing the total raw material needed (ie. 8 oranges).

How is ingredient concentration used to calculate impact?

Ingredient concentration refers to the impact that is transferred from the raw material to the ingredient. Throughout the process of harvesting a raw material and converting it into an ingredient for use in the food and beverage industry, low-value materials (such as waste and byproducts) are inevitably produced in order to extract high-value materials (such as fats, sugars, proteins and other materials).

In order to measure the total impact of the ingredient, the ingredient concentration value of a given ingredient is multiplied by the total greenhouse gasses, land use and blue water usage associated with growing or raising the raw material.

Example: Soy-based products

Soybean is a crop grown to produce several high value co-products that are used widely in the food industry:

  • Soy protein isolate is an ingredient commonly used to increase the protein content of processed foods

  • Soybean oil is a widely used cooking oil

In extracting the high value co-products, there are also low value byproducts that are removed during processing:

  • Soybean hulls are a low-value byproduct of soybean production, primarily used for animal feed

Therefore, the ingredient concentration of soy protein isolate must be taken into account because the ratio of harvested soybeans to soy protein isolate is not 1:1.

Why is this update important for food companies?

Given that agricultural production can make up 70-90% of the total impact of most agricultural goods, we decided that taking a more representative approach to assessing on-farm impact is an important step in enabling food companies to improve their impact and reduce emissions. Especially for reporting purposes, it is critical for companies to accurately measure and account for the emissions and impact of the raw material that is associated with the production of 1 unit of product.

By quantifying the full impact of growing or raising the raw materials that comprise an ingredient, you’re able to more consistently and accurately compare the impact of ingredients. You can confidently identify which of your ingredients or products pose the highest environmental risk, search for better ingredients and ultimately develop more sustainable food products.

How will impact scores and attributes be affected?

The update to ingredient concentration calculations affects the GHG Emissions, Land Occupation and Blue Water Usage scores for a given ingredient. The GHG Emissions, Land Occupation and Blue Water Usage scores for a given ingredient will be multiplied by its ingredient concentration value to account for the total impact of the ingredient. This will also subsequently affect a product’s overall HowGood Impact Score, its Carbon Life Cycle scores and its eligibility for the Climate Friendly and Water Smart attributes.

You may see the overall HowGood Impact Score for your product increase or decrease, depending on how concentrated its ingredients are.

You may also see a change to your product’s eligibility for the Climate Friendly attribute, which is calculated using the GHG Emissions metric. Products that qualify for Climate Friendly have GHG Emissions that are lower than 70% of all products assessed by HowGood.

Which products will be most affected by the update?

Products containing ingredients that have a high ingredient concentration and high inclusion percentage will be most affected by this update. Here are a few examples:

  • Products containing ingredients that are highly concentrated, with a high ratio of harvested material to ingredient.

  • Products containing ingredients associated with production processes that create a significant amount of waste and byproducts.

Examples: Dehydrated vegetables and herbs, plant-based products.

It’s important to note that products with ingredients that have high concentration but lower inclusion percentages will only see a nominal change. Single ingredient products or ingredients with a high inclusion percentage are likely to observe the greatest change in impact scores.

Sales categories that will see an average of 6+ point reduction in their HowGood Impact Score:

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Functional beverages

  • Flavored waters

  • Ready-to-drink tea and coffee

  • Creams and creamers

  • Plant based cheese

  • Plant based dairy alternatives

What is HowGood’s approach to research and metric updates?

HowGood has more than 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 international frameworks, NGO guidance and standards reports, peer reviewed life cycle assessment studies, journal articles, academic conference proceedings and texts, aggregated commercial databases, targeted industry studies, NGO research, government publications, and news reports from reputable outlets.

HowGood employs the most industry-recognized methodologies and incorporates the latest scientific research. Metrics and impact assessments are updated on an ongoing, iterative basis, making HowGood’s platform the leading-edge tool for product sustainability. In turn, HowGood is able to provide impact assessments that are accurate, comprehensive, and the most up-to-date. Through HowGood’s sustainability intelligence platform, Latis, we are able to scale this approach across products, brands, and the entire food industry.

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