THE LIFE OF OUR PRODUCTS
Since you downloaded Yuka, Mylabel or Clear Fashion, you have easy barcode scanning. How bad is it, doctor? Don't worry, you're not alone...
Applications to help responsible consumption are becoming more and more popular. They even influence the daily purchases of many French people. General inspection of shopping carts and smartphones!
Our various concerns are now being addressed by consumer assistance applications: Good on you, Open Food Facts, Yuka, Clear Fashion, etc. Virtual and ethical personal shoppers who sort out our fridges and cupboards for us. When we are confused by too much or too little information about an item, we turn to them. To "choose the best products" is to say how important the mission is, even to the point of making the biggest brands tremble. So what are these applications? What are they for? Are they reliable? What impact do they have on us and on consumption? We pass the subject to the scanner - yes, it was easy -.
Let's start at the beginning. A consumer application is based on a simple principle: the evaluation of brands or products by a note or a rating. Just like in school! The elements considered are generally related to health or sustainable development. It is downloaded directly on our smartphone, via catalogs: Google Play store on Android, or App Store on iPhone ... We know well. Associated platforms are often available online, and we saw the appearance of the first applications to help responsible consumption in 2016. Open Food Fact, Good on you or Yuka are among the pioneers. Today, there are several dozens of them positioned in different sectors: food, cleaning products, cosmetics, textiles, etc.
It's simple: play the merchant by scanning all the items we can get our hands on! If the pleasure of reconnecting with our childhood is real, it is above all about revolutionizing our way of consuming. The key to achieving this is to make the information easy to understand and visual. With this three-colored light system - green, orange, red -, they make us aware of the composition of our daily purchases or of the environmental practices of the brands.
The virtues are numerous: they make us eat better, consume less, avoid wasting, improve our health, satisfy our curiosity, denounce certain constituents or corporate habits, until sometimes making them evolve.
Consumer applications have different models. It would be too simple otherwise. The most fun ones, like Quel Produit or Clear Fashion, offer a scanning tool combined with a rating system. Others, like Too Good to Go or OptiMiam, connect customers and retailers to avoid food waste.
We list the most famous food applications: Yuka, BuyOrNot, ScanUp, QuelProduit, Open Food Facts, Siga, Nutrition Score, Kwalito, etc. They are the ones that have made it a habit (or perhaps an addiction?) to take out our phone at the supermarket. When they were launched, they generally built their database from that of Open Food Fact, an association created in 2012. Based on the same model as Wikipedia, all consumers around the world can come and enrich its collaborative content.
Access to information is free and open. Others like Yuka or Kwalito prefer to use their users and the startup Alkemics. Note that this private sector company recovers this data directly from industrialists and food companies.
If we look closely, we can see that, globally, food consumption apps establish their rating based on the Nutri-Score. But ifii the red "E" on your favorite ice cream! It is this code associating color and letter on the packaging. It's good when it's a green A, not so good when it's a red E. Sorry for your ice creams... Then, the algorithm of the apps will complete the note according to the presence of additives and the biological character of the product.
The more additives, the less good it is... The more organic it is, the better it is. Most of the time, they will also indicate you the "Nova" score. The World Health Organization recognizes this score from 1 to 4. It allows you to know if the article you have in your hands is very or slightly transformed. 1 = not processed. 4 = highly processed! If all these scores are red, the applications do not usually leave you in the lurch. They offer you an alternative product with a higher score. Who knows, maybe there are chocolate/caramel/pecan ice creams rated "A"?
"Eating well," OK, but our motivations can go far beyond the health aspect. No problem, the apps adapt. You want to know the consequences of the production of an item on the climate, soil, air and water? Head over to Open Food Fact, you'll see the Eco-Score. It uses the same letter and color scoring system. Do you have questions about cosmetic product compositions? Think Quel Produit or Yuka
If you're more into corporate social impact, BuyOrNot will give you access to current boycott campaigns.You are following aspecial diet: gluten-free, pregnant, lactose-free, etc. The Kwalito app will be able to tell you which products are recommended for your specific case.
Get ready to see them land on your smartphone, they are booming! After the food industry, the applications are attacking the textile sector. For example: Good On You, Clear Fashion, Moral Score, Viji, Pushoose. Some of them offer barcode scanning of items, such as Clear Fashion. Others, such as Moral Score or Good On You, simply evaluate companies. The traffic light system (again!) associated with a score, often out of 100, is widely used. The criteria measured generally correspond to: environment, human, health, animal welfare, and production sites. The data is collected directly on the net from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) information available, from the companies or sometimes also based on press articles.
In their entirety,Consumer assistance applications try to consider objective criteria. For example,for Yuka : a list of ingredients provided on a package compared to verified scientific information. For Clear Fashion, CSR data left accessible by companies. However, they also have their limits.
To be reliable, the data found on the net must match the measurement standards of the said application. Imagine, they each have their own specifications. And then there is the problem of regularly updating the information. It should also be considered that the evaluations are averages that do not necessarily take into account the complexity of certain cases. For textile applications, it is not easy to measure certain criteria as vast as the social impact of a company for example. What to base it on: remuneration, workplace, gender diversity, etc. And then, taking into consideration press articles, with a particular angle and point of view, to establish a score is not necessarily the best idea to show objectivity, no?
Another limitation: the apps forget about us as individuals a bit.Finally, few food apps take into account our profile or body type data. Thus, someone who is athletic needs a higher daily calorie intake than a sedentary person. However, a fatty or sweet product will be noted in the same way for both personalities on the application.
We also notice that additives are invariably badly considered. Here again, it might be useful to nuance. It's all a matter of dosage, an additive consumed in small quantities and occasionally does not necessarily represent a health risk. Likewise, daily calcium intake is essential for the proper functioning of our body. However, a cheese will systematically get a bad grade on the apps, because it is considered too fatty. Just like a fruit paste made to be eaten during a sports session will be noted as too sweet.
In the end, even if the apps provide us with crucial information that we were unaware of until now, dietary balance and our critical sense must remain our frame of reference to make a final decision.
Yuka would have more than 21 million users in 2021. 9 million Europeans would have downloaded Too good to go.
The research center for the study and observation of living conditions (CREDOC) has released between 2018 and 2020 several surveys on the consumption trends of the French. In 20 years, analysts have noted a strong increase in organic, bulk and second-hand purchases. And if we only talk about eating habits, since 2010, the average consumption of fruit is increasing... - 5 fruits and vegetables per day! - while meat consumption has been decreasing for 20 years. It would seem that we want to eat healthier, less processed and that it does not date from yesterday. CREDOC also reports that the ecological awareness is in very strong progression among the French, that the implementation of individual actions in the form of "consume less" or "consume better" is spreading. In 2018, 26% of French people put the environment at the top of their concerns. A record in 40 years of CREDOC surveys.
Can we then speak of a fashion effect?
When uses have been changing for 20 years, we are more likely to see a fundamental trend... The motivations of the French to change their habits are certainly different depending on the sensitivity of each person: cost, health, social impact, ecological awareness or animal welfare. But consumer applications respond directly to all these concerns. They provide easily accessible, transparent, clear and, above all, immediate information.
These applications also meet the needs of the young generation. Torn between two intentions, they are both captivated by consumption and committed to sustainable development in the way they buy. 800,000 posts on Instagram, the hashtag #fastfashion, shows the concern of young people about a textile industry that is too opaque. Moreover, the smartphone is an integral part of their daily lives, consumer applications meet their current way of accessing information. They easily and quickly adopt the reflex of scanning in store. Tomorrow's buyers have adopted this usage, so companies have every interest in anticipating this change with their (future) customers.
These apps are not just a matter for "young people". According to Le Monde, in 2018, 15% of French people used these apps to buy their groceries. In 2020, a study conducted by the National Institute of Consumption and Zero Waste France considered that 30% of respondents would use this type of application from time to time. This shows the impact and the penetration rate of this habit in our daily lives.
In concrete terms, this growing usage would have several consequences. According to a Clear Fashion survey from September 2020, consumers would use the app primarily to compare brands. 56% of them would go for well rated brands and 55% would decide to stop buying products from certain companies. These rating applications can therefore both persuade and dissuade. They generate a strong feeling of confidence in the information available, which is perceived as objective.
A bit like consumer reviews or influencers on social networks, they have a high recommendation power. Some applications have real activist claims, which helps to establish their credibility with targets sharing the same values as them, as confirmed by a study conducted by Yuka in May 2019. 92% of the 270,000 users surveyed would put down a food product with a red rating due to the presence of a dangerous additive. 83% say they consume more raw, unprocessed products.
Finally, 82% believe they buy less, but better quality products. These applications are also used by users as a means of pressuring retailers to change their ways. 46% of consumers would use Clear Fashion to demand more transparency from manufacturers.
To look at the impact on consumption and, in fine, on corporate revenues, they are understandably not indifferent to the trend. We see several postures. First, the collaboration: brands are evolving their products in order to limit or eliminate any harmful substances. Like the president of Intermarché who announced the withdrawal of 142 potentially harmful additives from foods manufactured by the group.
Others have made the choice to approach applications in order to provide them with updated data or to allow rectify incorrect information.
Others prefer fighting back: some companies are developing their own rating app. Like Système U with "Y'a quoi dedans?" which obviously lists the brand's products, but also competing items.
Finally, some organizations opt for the legal way. This is for example the case of the Fict (Federation of industrial pork butchers, caterers and meat processors) which, in October 2020, sent a formal notice to Yuka. Which asking for the withdrawal of their petition to ban nitrites in charcuterie.
Whether we consider them our digital allies or look at them with suspicion, consumer assistance applications have fully integrated our daily lives. And let's face it, they're not about to leave it: the trend is directly linked to society's aspirations. Brands seem to have no choice but to adapt and evolve alongside them.