The independent research organization known as HowGood has just announced their partnership with the Stop & Shop chain of grocery stores in the state of Massachusetts. Specifically, four stores in the neighborhoods of Hingham, New Bradford, Braintree, and Pembroke will implement the HowGood system on a trial basis.

The HowGood rating system enables shoppers to rate foods and other items and make educated choices about the products that they purchase. HowGood has a rating system of “Good,” “Great,” and “Best” which helps consumers judge which brands are the smartest purchases.

HowGood conducted extensive research to ensure that the products they give high ratings honor the rigorous environmental and social standards available.

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Since their establishment ten years ago, the company had highlighted the leaders of the food industry from a health, wellness, and quality standpoint. To date, they have rated more than 250,000 products, and they hope that their presence in Stop and Shop locations will be popular with consumers.

Alexander Gillett, the CEO, and co-founder of HowGood, recently discussed this partnership via an exclusive interview.

Food, ratings, and reactions

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in the food industry and why did you gravitate towards building a ratings system?

Alexander Gillett (AG): Arthur Gillett, HowGood co-founder and my brother, and I grew up with parents who fed us good food and encouraged conversation about where our food was coming from. We spent our childhood in Portugal and New York and always had access to fresh, local food year-round.

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We generally took this for granted, and at a grocery store in England, I realized I had no understanding of which food products were produced with higher standards or were better for the environment, and after that experience, we knew this was something we needed to work on.

Over the past ten years, HowGood has developed the world’s largest database of sustainable food ratings and research, which supports an in-store ratings system that identifies leaders in the food industry. HowGood is currently the only company that stringently researches the quality of food products based on a detailed criteria of multiple metrics and highlights those ratings for consumers. The three benchmarks we use to rate #Foods are -- Growing Guidelines, Processing Practices, and Company Conduct -- to reward those that are environmentally friendly, less processed and socially responsible.

MM: What prompted you to start HowGood and how difficult was it to get the company established?

AG: My brother Arthur and I had a passion for the food system and recognized the deep impact our decisions as consumers make on the planet, but we also knew it was so hard to know which products are the ones to put our dollars behind.

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We were a small #Startup for several years before we expanded into working with grocery stores and consumers through our ratings system and the app, so it was a slow but sure process.

MM: What kind of research do you have to do on your items and how do you monitor the market for new products?

AG: Our team has worked with hundreds of industry experts to develop the in-depth understanding of the food system that informs our research process. Gathering information from 350 data partners, we research each food item in our partner stores across three benchmarks to evaluate how food is grown and processed as well as the conduct of the company that produces it. Collectively, a product’s performance across these benchmarks provides a comprehensive assessment of the product’s overall environmental and social impact. As our partner stores add new items to their shelves, we thereby research and rate a growing list of products.

MM: What prompted you to place your system in physical stores and what kinds of reactions do you anticipate?

AG: Through research our team conducted, we found that the average consumer spends no more than fifteen seconds making a choice in an aisle, so we decided to begin working in cooperation with grocery stores to display the HowGood ratings system right next to items’ price tags. We’ve seen at least a 31 percent boost in sales for the best-rated products as a result. We have since launched a free phone app to help share additional information as well.

Supermarkets, customers, and goals

MM: Why did you select four Stop and Shop stores in the state of Massachusetts? Why that state, that franchise, and those specific stores?

AG: HowGood has a partnership with Ahold stores, and after successfully launching in 167 Giant stores in Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area, we began speaking with Stop & Shop. Given Stop & Shop’s commitment to their customers and to providing information to help them make educated purchasing decisions, it seemed like a natural fit. With HowGood ratings in four Stop & Shop locations, the shoppers at these stores are now able to quickly assess which foods are the most wholesome, sustainable, and honest, empowering them to buy groceries they feel good about for themselves and their families. The original Stop & Shop stores are in Massachusetts, which is why we are focusing in that area first.

MM: If this implementation is successful, will you branch out to other stores in more states?

AG: We have a high success rate with stores that conduct a trial with our program, and we hope to launch the ratings system in all 400+ Stop & Shop stores throughout New York, New England, and New Jersey after the trial ends. HowGood has rated more than 250,000 products and is adding more every day. We aim to bring our ratings to supermarkets countrywide so that shoppers have access to reliable and transparent information on the food they buy.

MM: How do you envision HowGood and its in-store presence growing over the next ten years and what kind of data are you seeking to gather from this current partnership?

AG: The HowGood ratings system is available in grocery stores throughout the country, and we continue to expand our presence. We also have an app for consumers to access the information about over 250,000 food products. We hope to continue to grow our presence in more grocery stores across the U.S. as well as hire more researchers and programmers to add to our database and bring even more information to consumers. We are working towards assigning a rating to every product sold in the market -- a goal we are determined to meet. #technology