A New Food Labeling System

The Lempert Report
May 14, 2015

Sage wants to help consumers understand what they're buying.

You may have seen headlines lately about calorie miscounts on food product labels or inaccurate health claims. How can consumers really know what they’re buying?  Well now there's a startup that's working on fixing these problems, an innovative new food label platform called Sage:

Sam Slover - Co-founder and Head of Design, Sage Sage is a new platform to give people a better food label. It's a digital platform.  A website and a mobile app we like to say we give people the food label that they've always wanted to have but have never had a chance to because we're stuck with the status quo which is the label on the packaging. 

So there a few things that go into our digital food label. One is more transparency, so we give consumers access to all the information that they've always wanted companies to disclose but have never really had a chance to see before. SO it would be things like, where do the ingredients in the product actually come from. Have food additives been used in the ingredients list?

Another thing about our digital food labels labels is that we use great design and data visualization  to make it easier for people to make sense of this date. The third  part of our label is that everything has been sourced and curated by registered dietitians. We like to think we're making labels of the future and we increasingly think that this is how people will access information through their digital devices and through the web. 

I’ve always been interested in how data visualization can be used in everyday scenarios that people encounter.  So the initial way I wrapped my own head around this is  I spent 3 months manually tracking everything I purchased from a grocery store. I would enter in all their data So i could see what kind of data was in there and what data would end up being important to me and then I designed a platform around that. 

As the design team learned working with nutritionists was fundamental because there are many parts of the platform that we implemented directly based on their feedback that we wouldn't have known about otherwise. 

Phil: For an added health benefit and easy relatability, Sage also has an exercise component.

Sam: Exercise equivalence proved to be a very relatable way for somebody who doesn’t know a lot about nutrition to understand the product quickly. 

There was a good study from John Hopkins where they did a bunch of research on what would actually change consumer behavior and the number one was how much do you actually have to exercise to burn off this food. So every product in our system has that as one of the data visualizations. 

We think there are a few reasons why Sage is good for consumers, the first is that it's digital.  It’s a mobile app and a website. Which is increasingly become something very natural for people to access the information through this medium. You can get the information when you're in the store in front of a product or when you're on the go. The second thing would be, this is something that consumers have been clamoring for for a while. A better food label that has more information and more transparency. The problem with the existing system is to get any changes to the food label requires a huge change and very unrealistic agreement between the government, big food labels, big food lobbyists, and a lot of different actors. But by designers, nutritionists and consumers taking the system into our own hands, we can have a better system available immediately.

Here at Sage we're reinventing the food label, giving people the food label that they've always dreamed of but haven't really had access to before.