Eating well is not easy today. Many products that are sold in large stores and are camouflaged as healthy are not so much. The food industry tries to deceive us constantly with the labels and labels of the products. Even if we try to avoid it, we end up eating sugar, starch and processed meats in malsalva in foods that should not be taken.
But how to avoid it when they want to strain it over and over again? It is what has been proposed The coconut, a startup and mobile application that works as a nutritional guide. We chat with your CEO, Jean Baptiste Boubault, about the tool and how it is possible to eat better.
– How did El CoCo come about? What is your story?
– Actually, it comes from my own experience as a parent. Since I have children, I have been worried about their diet. I felt helpless to go with them to the supermarket and see them attracted to products with bright colors and attractive slogans or drawings, which I felt were not the best for them. The problem is that I didn't have, like most of the families in this country, knowledge about nutrition, nor did I know how to interpret the nutritional tables.
This, together with my experience of more than 15 years in different companies of the digital world is the basis of the creation of El CoCo.
The CoCo is a way to put my grain of sand: a useful tool for consumers to choose what they eat with all the information in their possession, without being confused by the advertising and deceptive marketing that companies use, and of course mobile!
– How does the application work?
We are the only tool on the market that detects ultraprocessed.
You just have to scan the product barcode with your mobile phone and we can see, on the one hand, the real nutritional information of the food based on the Nova numerical ranking – from 1 (not processed) to 4 (ultraprocessed and not recommended products for habitual consumption) – and the scientific system of international qualification Nutriscore – with a traffic light of color that goes from the healthiest (green) to at least (red) -; and on the other, its degree of processing.
– For those of us who are profane in the matter … What are the Nutriscore system and the Nova ranking and why do we have to trust them?
– He NOVA index evaluates the level of processing of each product from 1 (unprocessed) such as vegetables or natural fruit (even frozen), meat, eggs …; until 4, which has more than five ingredients in its composition, among which there are usually countless additives and are subject to industrial processes such as hydrogenation, extrusion and other unhealthy techniques. Levels 2 and 3 would be those ‘processed culinary ingredients’: salt, sugar, butter, honey…; and products that can contain two to three ingredients (some canned foods, cheeses, beer …), respectively.
For its part, Nutriscore It is an efficient and clear nutritional classification system for the consumer endorsed by the FSA (Food Standars Agency – the British department that deals with public health and food safety) and the WHO (World Health Organization), among other international organizations. It is basically a traffic light that indicates, in a color scale, the classification of a food in relation to its nutrients. Thus, the green color is the healthiest (letter A) and red represents the least (letter E). So:
A – Excellent nutritional quality
B – Good nutritional quality
C – Acceptable nutritional quality
D – Poor nutritional quality
E – Very poor nutritional quality
The application offers information on the two rankings precisely because we consider it to be complementary. A fruit yogurt, for example, can have B according to Nutriscore, but be Nova 4. Although this product, in fact, has a good nutritional quality, it would not stop being ultraprocessed and therefore a food that we should avoid consuming on a regular basis.
– Is there a lot of confusion on the part of users about foods that are healthy and those that are not? Why?
The nutritional information of a product always appears in its list of ingredients and in its nutritional table, the problem is that nobody or almost nobody knows how to interpret it, and generally we are confused by strange nomenclatures and percentages that it is difficult for us to interpret (For example, we can see the amount of sugar or salt, but not be aware of whether it is too much or too little for a product).
In addition, there is the problem of Advertising messages: Today it is fashionable to eat healthy, and brands have launched themselves to sell us products that attract us with that idea with names or slogans that suggest the same. However, we find many examples of products with more salt than recommended (or with less meat than they should!), Yogurts or children's juices ‘without added sugar’ that are nevertheless ultra-processed, etc.
Our goal is to put transparency where today we believe there is opacity.
– Why do they try to deceive us with the origin and composition of many products?
Simply to sell more, as we commented above. Rather than deceive us, the industry takes advantage of consumer ignorance to Find legal gaps that allow marketing to be confused with false promises. They are abusing our trust, but increasingly we demand more transparency.
In the coconut We do not intend to say what foods we should or should not eat, we simply want to offer the information for everyone to choose freely (and if today we fancy a chocolate or a hamburger, why not?). We are not against any food but the lack of clarity and the "disguise" of many products that sell us as healthy when they are not.
– How are manufacturers and brands being taken to shed light on food and its quality?
– At the moment we have not received any call or comment from you, and to do we would not admit any pressure. Yes we have received comments from brands that want to know what we do or have asked us to add or complete information about their products.
Our goal is to help all of us eat healthier, and that, many times, may be incompatible with the business objectives of the industry.
– How many products does the app currently have in your catalog?
– We currently have a database of about 110,000 products, which we are increasing every day thanks to the collaboration of the users and the analysis of our team.
We have a technological system that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to precisely automate the reading of labels and barcodes, and translate it into these indexes that we use. In addition, in our team we also have nutritionists who verify that the information is adequate and correct.
– How many users do you have at this time?
– Since we started operating earlier this year, now we have exceeded 120,000 downloads. Our users scan every day an average of 20,000 products, we don't stop growing!
– How do you monetize the application?
– At the moment we have our own initial financing, with which we have carried out the technological development and start-up of the company. Later we hope to incorporate premium options in the application that will be paid, although we will always have the free service for everyone who needs it.
Something that we have decided is that we will not finance ourselves with advertising, for a matter of consistency, but we will try to make those users who use the app more participate paying more advanced service or functionalities.
Our goal as entrepreneurs is twofold: first to achieve the greatest positive impact on society, and then to find a point of economic equilibrium in the medium-long term.
– What can we expect from El Coco in the future?
– We hope that its use will be generalized and that it will be used in more and more buying events. The consumer is increasingly aware of what he eats, and much more demanding with the market, so with this type of tools you will get, as a collective, that brands that make products of poor quality cannot hide and disappear or are converted to not lose business (we have already seen what has happened, for example, with the oil of palm)
In the long run, we expect El CoCo to be an agent of change in this new order that will help us balance our diet globally.