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Recipe box brand Gousto is to trial carbon labelling on its meals, giving the option for customers to “swap out ingredients with higher carbon footprint before placing an order”.

The trial will take place next year, the company said, providing a service “no other recipe box offers”.

A selection of the 50 recipes offered will display the meals’ total carbon impact, to allow subscribers to make “more environmentally conscious dinner choices”.

Carbon labelling has proven a tricky challenge for the sector. In 2007, Tesco committed to display a carbon footprint on all its products, but later found it too costly and time-consuming. Around the same time, PepsiCo, Innocent and Boots joined a government-backed pilot scheme that soon faded away. The likes of Quorn, Oatly and Upfield portfolio brands have, however, chosen to clearly display the carbon footprint of individual products on packaging.

The announcement comes as Gousto-backed research by food carbon footprint assessment provider Foodsteps found the recipe box company’s delivered meals produced close to a quarter less carbon emissions than buying the equivalent food from a supermarket.

Each Gousto order saves 7kg of carbon dioxide emissions compared with the equivalent supermarket shop, it found. The difference was driven by the fact Gousto delivers direct to home – reducing the number of vehicles on the road – as well as its commitment to only offer 100% British fresh meat, saving on air miles.

The company will soon introduce “greater seasonality” to their menus, focusing on produce that requires less energy to produce and minimises carbon output.

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Further carbon savings come from Gousto’s ongoing work to reduce food waste. “By sending fresh, precise ingredients for weekly dinners, there is almost zero food waste in the home,” the company said. “Food waste is kept to a minimum in the fulfilment centres too, thanks to Gousto’s use of technology.” 

It’s fulfilment centres operate with less than 1% surplus food, thanks to AI-powered predictions of weekly order volumes that prevent over-ordering from suppliers.

“Studies like this one are crucial for helping consumers make more environmentally friendly food choices and to inform the wider industry where improvements should be made to lower their carbon footprint,” said Isaac Emery of Informed Sustainability Consulting, which verified the Foodsteps findings.

“Food waste has three times the climate cost of air travel, and Gousto’s innovative operation keeps waste to an absolute minimum. These findings show the food industry just how big an opportunity waste reduction is for meeting climate goals,” he added.

Gousto doubled its capacity in 2020, expanding its fulfilment centre in Lincolnshire and adding a second automated factory in December. The company plans to double capacity again by the end of 2022, adding two new fulfilment centres in Essex and Cheshire. All four sites are planned to run off 100% renewable energy.

“Gousto was born out of the vision to remove food waste from the system, a lot of which is created by inefficiencies in traditional grocery chains,” said CEO and founder Timo Boldt. “By harnessing technology, we’ve achieved a significant 23% carbon emissions saving compared to a supermarket shop. Whilst we grow rapidly, we are committed to doing so with purpose towards our goal that every meal will leave the world better off.” 

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