What Is Radical Transparency?

As consumers strive to find the cleanest and greenest labels that support their health goals and their values, the race is on for the new must-have ingredient: radical transparency.
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Radical Transparency - Trace this Fish

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A Cheat Sheet for Conscious Eaters

When it comes to food, “radical transparency” is the watchword for 2018, according to market-research firm Mintel. Indeed, 69% of 1,500 consumers surveyed in a recent Hartman Group report wanted more transparency and evidence from companies about their sustainability practices.

Considered a step beyond third-party certifications such as Fair Trade Certified or Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), radical transparency is about staying ahead of the curve by offering even more proof points to eaters. For companies embracing this approach, the goal is simple: provide a high-quality product while also ameliorating a social or environment ill.

Take seafood. Long lauded by nutritionists as a nutrient-packed superfood, the vast majority of eaters still fall well below the recommended intake (at least two times per week), often citing concerns about potential contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are highly toxic industrial compounds; heavy metals such as lead, mercury or cadmium; and general murkiness about where the product was sourced.

“Seafood has been a notoriously opaque industry for much of its history, and that has led to a lot of fraud, overfishing and unsustainable practices that do not value responsible sourcing,” says Ken Plasse, CEO of Fishpeople Seafood. The solution? Fishpeople Seafood introduces you to the waters, the fishing methods, the species and the crews who caught your dinner. “Our mission is to directly connect people with the story behind their seafood because we have seen how this connection inspires people to support more transparently sourced, pure seafood with no artificial additives, as well as local coastal communities and independent fishermen.”

Technology as a Tool to Eat Cleaner

One tool accelerating this trend is technology. While the lines between our food and technology have often been fraught (think GMOs), in many respects it is technological innovation that’s enabling more direct access to the information we crave as we seek cleaner ingredient lists and traditional preparation or sourcing methods. Whether it’s from live- streamed cameras, QR codes or blockchain, innovations in transparency help brands do three important things.

Dare to Bare: 3 Transparency Trends to Watch Now

Here’s a quick primer on three transparency trends that are catching on with consumers, as well as a few brands we love who are leading the charge.

Certified B Corporation

Certified B Corp ensures that companies are preserving the planet, helping their communities and considering employees’ well-being.

Certified B Corporation

What it is: For shoppers seeking more compassionate and holistically minded companies, Certified B Corp label ensures that companies have met rigorous standards in all their practices, including providing value to the local community, stewardship of the environment and treatment of employees. Certified B Corp companies continue to provide transparency in assessments done through the certifying body, B Lab. How it works: Certified B Corporation is an easy-to-spot label that appears on products and websites.  Who’s doing it: Sol Organica. In addition to this company’s numerous certifications, which include USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified, Sol Organica has been a Certified B Corp company since 2017 and has partnerships with sustainable, small farms in Nicaragua. The company “can trace back to where every morsel of mango, bite of pineapple or slurp of passion fruit juice comes from.” Try: Sol Simple Dried Organic Mangos ($7, solsimple.com

Traceable Straight to the Source 

What it is: You’re probably already familiar with a QR code, if not in name, then upon sight, as the matrix barcode on the back of most of your purchased goods. This is one of the most common tracking technologies. When used by conscientious companies, it can provide access to see exactly who grew, caught, harvested or produced every ingredient.  How it works: Simply scan the QR code with any number of apps you can download onto your smartphone (for example, Barcode Scanner or QR Code Reader).  Who’s doing it: Promising “one degree of separation” from the farm to you, One Degree Organic  Foods shows where every ingredient was sourced with a simple QR code scan or by inputting the product’s tracking number.  Try: One Degree Organic Foods Organic Sprouted Rye Flour ($7, onedegreeorganics.com

Single Origin Source

What it is: Seemingly simple commodities such as coffee, cocoa and livestock often have sprawling global networks with many stops along the way and middlemen. For example, beef and pork imported from other countries can legally be labeled “Product of USA” if the product is processed in a USDA-inspected facility, thanks to changes to the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law that went into effect in 2015. Some brands are trying to rise above the noise with items produced from a single origin. This signifies that the products are made exclusively from a single batch, varietal, plot of land or even animal. How it works: Every Fishpeople Seafood’s product has a batch code that brings you straight to the source to see which river, which fisherman and which methods were used in your catch. Input the batch code on the company’s webpage with a simple click. Try: Fishpeople Meyer Lemon & Herb Panko Wild Alaskan Salmon Kit ($10, fishpeopleseafood.com) Another Superstar to Look out For: Nurture Ranch Traceable Grass Fed Beef Tenderloin ($29 per lb, nurtureranch.com

This 2018 NEXTY Award winner promises beef from one cow, from birth to slaughter. Certified by the American Grassfed Association, the tracking code also lets you see the animal’s history, including its genetics, health metrics and the specific grasses grazed.