The only time I formally learned about food labels was in a sixth grade "health class" through a crossword puzzle containing the words "calories," "fat," "protein," "carbohydrates," etc. What do all of those words even really mean? I'm still figuring it out, and the FDA's new, still poorly designed, data dump food labels certainly don't clearly communicate product content. With an education system that fails to provide students with a comprehensive knowledge base in relation to personal health, is it really so surprising that many of these students grow up to have confusing relationships with food? Food apps are intended to make nutrition easier, yet few seem to reach that goal. According to The New York Times, "Apple's app store already lists more than three dozen apps offering users information and advice about calories, nutrition data and weight loss, but research shows that many consumers have a failed relationship with their food apps."
With so many already on the market, you're probably wondering, do we really need another food app? The simple answer is yes. Most food apps available are marketed in a way that encourages dieting and weight loss over consumer education. To understand the complex processes of industrially manufacturing food, and the effects these foods have on our bodies and the environment, we need more than a meal tracker or digital database of FDA labels. That's where Sage Project comes in. By using colorful graphics and food characters, the app makes food research surprisingly entertaining and enjoyable.
The project was started by Sam Slover for his graduate thesis under the name Wrap Genius, which won the 2014 Kantar Information is Beautiful Award, with the mission of creating a visual framework to address his own questions: Where does my food come from? What are my healthiest and unhealthiest choices? Which foods have GMOs? Sage Project is the dream food label, designed for the interests of the consumer.
"The food we buy matters. As our food systems become increasingly complex, the food we choose to consume affects not only our own health, but also the environment, our ethical framework, the Earth's biodiversity, and so much more."
Once backed only by design competition winnings with only a couple thousand products, the platform now lists tens of thousands of items and is in partnership with Whole Foods. While Wrap Genius was all Slover, Sage Project was born from the work of a team whose backgrounds range from government to nutrition to architecture. With the goal of providing honest and accurate information in an understandable way, the platform makes food data accessible to anyone with phone or computer access.
Foods are awarded badges based on the standards they meet
"We're seeing a push for authenticity, something that feels like it can help consumers purchase the thing that's right for them, for their lives, for their values."
Only eat food Made in the USA? Or from woman-owned businesses? Or made with renewable energy? How about wild-caught, cage free, farm raised? The app can filter all of those, and more. The program can even sort food by packaging, informing users about which brand of the desired product uses biodegradable or recycled packaging.
Sage offers users a wide variety a of food restrictions and lifestyle preferences to choose from
Have specific dietary restrictions? The app allows users to set preferences for anything from "Good Nutrients for Price" to "Yeast Free" to "No Artificial Colors or Flavors." It even tells you where in the world your food comes from. And with a comprehensive database boasting over 20,000 products, 7,000 of which are from Whole Foods, finding food to fit your needs is easy.
"For food, as science progresses rapidly, consumers are often left behind because it's an impossible deluge of research to keep up with," says Slover "We want to provide meaning and personal context." With personalized profiles and comprehensive graphics, Sage Project definitely gives context to the data in a way that other nutrition apps just don't. By providing dry information to consumers in a way that makes the numbers fun and visually engaging, Sage hopes to build customer loyalty and defy the trend of failed food app/user relationships.
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Now imagine if this product was applied to education? Ten-year-old me would have definitely preferred this over a "nutrition themed" word search that failed to actually define the words I was searching for. Maybe if I had this in elementary school, I wouldn't have spent the following ten years feeling confused by food labels. And come on, who doesn't want to learn about food from a jump-roping chocolate bar, a pear doing yoga or jogging french fries?