How consumers are voting for change with their grocery lists (and iPhones!)

A look at the latest ethical shopping apps

Remember when buying ice cream was just about a craving for rocky road?

Now consumers want to know which road that milk travelled, how fairly the sugar was traded and whether or not the marshmallows are vegan.

In a complex food system, overwhelming consumer choice can feel like a burden instead of a luxury and consumers are thinking more critically about the foods that they buy and the impact on their environment, their health and social change.

Transparency is the new buzzword in the food world – giving consumers the opportunity to see ‘behind the label’. This being 2013, there is of course, an app for that!

Buycott is an app for iPhone and Android devices that allows shoppers to create and join campaigns based on political, health or social values and then scan UPC codes to check if the food they are about to purchase falls in line with their core values. Popular campaigns including avoiding companies that oppose GMO labeling or supporting companies that are 100% employee owned.

The Good Guide allows shoppers to create their own purchasing criteria and gives scanned items a pass or fail based on their changing needs.

Wrapping your head around sustainable seafood just got a whole lot easier thanks to two apps from either side of the 49th parallel.

Ocean Wise is a sustainable seafood project out of Vancouver that is modeled after the popular Seafood Watch program in the U.S. The app classifies choices based on the type of fish and provenance so if your store doesn’t already have a sustainable seafood program, ensuring that country of origin is clearly labelled on the seafood case can make it easier for shoppers using the apps.

With transparency being the name of the socially minded food game, even producers are getting into the app world.

One great example of how this technology can connect with consumers is the app from Ethical Bean Coffee. The Vancouver-based fair trade coffee company enables shoppers to scan the QR code on their bag of coffee beans to learn more about the coffee and where it came from.

It seems like the future of food might just be technology after all!

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