Standing in front of the milk case at your grocery store may seem like the easiest thing you do all week. Open the door, grab a gallon, walk. Within that seemingly simple and effortless choice to grab this gallon over that, there are actually a number of questions raised. Is the price right? Is it fresh? Is it organic? Was it produced in a sustainable way? Were the cows treated humanely? Were the workers treated fairly? Is this brand doing overall good in the world?
Whoa. It’s just milk. Or is it? Your purchase to buy one brand over another is actually a vote for “yes, I approve of your brand and everything related to it.” When you’re standing in front of that milk case, how many of the above questions, and dozens more, can you actually answer? Maybe three. There’s a price, an expiration date, and all of the marketing on the package will tell you whether or not it’s organic, free of hormones, or if the package can be recycled. To answer the rest of those questions, you’d need a HowGood rating label.
Launched just four months ago, brothers Arthur and Alexander Gillett have installed their HowGood rating labels in three independent and specialty grocery stores in the US – Stumps Market in San Diego, Green Grape in Brooklyn, and Weaver’s Way Co-Op in Philadelphia. Alexander told us in a recent interview that HyVee, a large employee-owned grocery chain, is considering a test in 200 stores.
The HowGood label is a rating system that has already had its team of experts review more than 100,000 products. The idea is to find out just “how good” a brand or product is, evaluating 60 indicators that “look at everything these people are doing,” said Alexander. “They can’t advertise that they handle poop (methane) well,” but How Good can. Under areas like ingredient profile and sourcing, management accountability, growing practices, and manufacturer impact, they take in to consideration accounting records, labor relations, habitat conservation, environmental emissions, geographic sensitivity, and many others. Once scored, the HowGood analysis generates a score of zero, one, two, or three globes; the more globes the more sustainable and “good” the product is.
Now, take a second look at that milk case. Would your milk selection be changed if you considered the HowGood rating? Alexander told us it likely would be. “The best-rated milk product saw an increase in sales of 36 percent in one month, and continued over the next four months,” in a test store.
Alexander shared the scores for three popular milk brands, that according to their marketing are quality, eco-friendly milk products. HowGood determined otherwise.
- Horizon: No Globes
- Stonyfield: 1 Gobe – “Good”
- Organic Valley: 2 Globes – “Very Good”
The benefit to the consumer is fairly obvious – greater knowledge of the products they are buying, consuming, and thusly voting for.
The benefit to grocers is a “sought-after demographic,” said Alexander. Not only that, but he says grocers will gauge success not by increasing tonnage but instead by increasing basket size. Now people are “paying the real of cost of food,” Alexander told us. “Food is so cheap in our society because we’re cutting corners and the products aren’t sustainable. With the HowGood score, we’re seeing what food should cost.”
The reach of HowGood’s physical presence at the point of purchase is short right now, but Alexander (in partnership with his brother Arthur) are working steadfast to see this “thing” take off. As they compete for some of the smallest and most valuable real estate in the entire grocer store, the price tag, his hopes are that conscientious consumers will alert their grocers to the HowGood program and insist on its presence in the stores they shop.
You can learn more about Alexander Gillett and the HowGood program in our full-length interview (click the link).