In this article, we will see how the beCPG software allows the calculation of the Eco-score of food products.
The Eco-score: sales argument or formulation constraint?
Designed to raise consumer awareness on the environmental impact of their food consumption, the Eco-score is causing debate. This educational indicator has been launched at the beginning of 2021 by a dozen players (online shops, associations, mobile applications, recipe sites, etc.). It uses the colour code of the Nutri-score, with a grade from A to E. Unlike the latter, the Eco-score is not yet validated by the government, but it already represents a challenge for the food industry in terms of environmental optimisation. Don’t worry: beCPG explains how to calculate it.
Household food represents 1/4 of the carbon impact in France. This impact can be reduced in various ways: by consuming less meat and of better quality, by favouring certain labels (including organic), or by favouring local and seasonal products. Certain controversial food (endangered fish, unsustainable palm oil) are also targeted by the Eco-score. Finally, the choice of packaging is also taken into account in its calculation.
The calculation of the Eco-score is done in 3 steps:
- A reference score between 0 (high environmental impact) and 100 (no impact) is given for each product category, based on ADEME’s Agribalyse data.
- Bonuses and penalties are applied to take account of the method of production, the origin of the ingredients, the packaging, etc.
- The final score between 0 and 100 is reduced to a letter from A to E.
A reference base by product category
In view of the complexity and multitude of environmental indicators, the Eco-score chose the ADEME’s Agribalyse database as its reference base. This database includes the product categories present in the CIQUAL tables. It assigns a reference score (Single Score) to each product on the basis of a complete LCA with 16 environmental indicators.
CO2 impact, soil and water eutrophication, land use, resource depletion, or toxicity on ecosystems and humans, etc. These 16 indicators are varied. The advantage of the Single Score is therefore that it assigns a single score to each product, after weighting each of these indicators according to their respective importance and robustness. The result is a score between 0 and 100.
This methodology has one major drawback: it does not take into account the variability between 2 products in the same category. For example, whether a strawberry tart is made in France with French and seasonal ingredients, or imported by plane from Japan and overpacked in plastic, their Single Scores will be the same.
To take these differences into account, the Eco-score then assigns a series of bonuses and penalties to products, based on various indicators.
Additional indicators: bonus & malus
A first bonus can be attributed to products according to their certification to take into account the production methods. For example, the “Rainforest Alliance” or “Label Rouge” labels on beef, veal or lamb give +20 points to the score, while organic farming gives +15 points. The full list of bonus labels is available here.
A second bonus is given according to the distance to the country of origin of the product, or of its ingredients for formulated products. If the product has not travelled between its country of origin and its country of sale, it gains a bonus of +15 points. Conversely, a product that has travelled around the world before being sold will not earn any points. At the recipe level, each ingredient impacts this bonus in proportion to its quantity in the recipe. The score per country is available here.
To take into account the local environmental policies of the producing countries, another bonus or malus is attributed according to the efforts of the country of origin to protect the environment. For example, Denmark, a pioneer in terms of environmental protection, scores better than Belgium in terms of local environmental policy, despite being geographically further away from France.
This score is based on the Environmental Performance Index2created by Yale & Columbia universities, and updated every 2 years. The bonus or malus assigned varies from +5 to -5 points. At recipe level, each ingredient impacts this bonus in proportion to its quantity in the recipe. The score per country is available here.
A malus is also attributed on the circularity model of the packaging, both upstream (use of recycled materials) and downstream (recyclability or biodegradability). Depending on the packaging materials, their rate of incorporation of recycled materials and their recyclability, a malus ranging from 0 to -10 points can be assigned. A product sold in bulk will of course have no malus regarding packaging. If the exact values are not known, the average values per material can be used (source: ADEME). These are available here.
Similarly, if the product contains palm oil (not 100% RSPO certified), it will suffer a -10 point penalty. Adding all these bonuses and maluses to the baseline score then gives a final score between 0 (high environmental impact) and 100 (no environmental impact).
A grade from A to E, and a colour code similar to the Nutri-Score
The final score between 0 and 100 obtained after adding the bonuses and penalties can then be converted into an Eco-score from A to E.
The score out of 100 follows a logarithmic scale, with an impact doubled every 20 points. A product with a score of 40/100 (e.g. shepherd’s pie at D) will therefore have 2x the environmental impact of a product with a score of 60/100 (e.g. eggs at C). This makes it possible to account for the different orders of magnitude and to compare very different products.
The applications of the Eco-score are as varied as those of the Nutri-score: product packaging, menus in collective catering or even recipe websites. The objective of raising awareness is primarily educational, but it is certain that manufacturers are already looking very closely at it as a marketing argument, even if it means reformulating their products or sourcing new raw materials.
Calculate the Eco-score of your products in beCPG
To save your time, beCPG has added the calculation of the eco-score. You just have to select the type of product that you are developing and the system automatically calculates the eco-score of the product. In fact, beCPG already has the necessary data to calculate the eco-score :
- Product recipes
- The geographical origins and species of the raw materials
- Packaging with materials and weights
- Product labels and claims
Remarks : This article mentions the calculation of the Eco-Score in April 2021. This is not yet recognised by the State, and requires the approval of the collective that created it to apply its logo. The Eco-score is constantly evolving, and is of course likely to change significantly. At the dawn of a major debate on its application, it is possible that other Eco-score will be tested for comparison, as was the case for the Nutri-score in the 2010s. Also, it could potentially be adapted to other sectors (cosmetics, DPH, etc.). The beCPG team will of course keep you informed, and our PLM will as always be your best ally to optimise your products and keep them up to date.
You can find more information on the beCPG Formulation module in our article on the subject.
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