The answers to your most frequently asked questions

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About Foodsteps
How did Foodsteps start?

Foodsteps was founded by Anya Doherty in 2019 while she was researching sustainable food systems at the University of Cambridge. Anya’s work included co-leading the largest experimental trial to date into carbon labelling for food and undertaking an environmental impact assessment of Cambridge’s own food offering.

Seeing the opportunity to apply the work directly to the food industry, Anya launched Foodsteps with an initial team of sustainability scientists and software engineers in early 2019.

After completing trials with commercial food brands, Foodsteps launched its all in one services and solutions, to the wider industry. Through Foodsteps, we aim to make it easy and accessible for any food business to measure, communicate and, most importantly, reduce their environmental impact.

Who are Foodsteps?

We have a mission to help the food system measure, reduce and communicate its environmental impact.

Foodsteps helps food businesses and consumers to understand the environmental impact of their food. We are a passionate team working across the food sector to integrate environmental impact data into everyday decision-making.

What is Foodsteps?

Foodsteps is a UK based start-up which offers data and communication solutions for food businesses looking to measure, reduce and communicate their food’s environmental impact.

What data sources do Foodsteps use?

Our extensive database of peer-reviewed LCA studies is primarily sourced from the 2018 meta-analysis by Poore & Nemecek, which covers the impacts of many different ingredients from the farm stage up to the retail stage (including any processing, packaging, and transport in-between).

We have supplemented this with a wide range of data that is either publicly available or accessible to Foodsteps, using our links to academia, industry and research bodies. All data is recalculated and harmonised with our food impact database to ensure a consistent scope and specificity. 

If the exact sourcing of food items is unknown, we use international trade data to map where food is typically sourced from over a year.

In order to achieve a cradle-to-grave (farm to end-of-life) assessment, Foodsteps has created our own unique models for the environmental impacts of post-retail stages. This includes the end-mile transport of food items (from the point of sale to consumption), the pre-preparation storage, cooking and post-preparation storage of food items, and the end-of-life disposal of any food that is wasted.

Carbon Labels
What does ‘carbon footprint per kilogram’ mean?

Carbon footprint per kilogram means the emissions from a single item serving. This value is displayed on the label e.g. (kg CO2e/per kg of the item).

What does ‘carbon intensity’ mean?

Carbon intensity reflects the carbon footprint per kilogram of each food item or product (kg CO2e / kg of food). Our A to E rating will help you differentiate between the impact of these food items.

What do the labels not tell me?

Carbon footprint scores cannot capture the full scope of food sustainability. Other environmental impacts like land use, water use and pollution are also important, as are social impacts such as fair pay and food security.

However, carbon footprint scores can still provide important insights into one of humanity's biggest challenges.

How are the carbon footprint scores calculated?

The carbon footprint of food items is calculated from cradle-to-grave using leading Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data, starting from emissions on-farm, through to waste disposal emissions.

Carbon footprint values are calculated in a number of ways on our platform, for example: 

  1. Directly from LCA studies on the specific food item.
  2. Indirectly using proxy food items where a direct match cannot be found, and 
  3. Combining multiple studies for processed food items containing more than one ingredient.

Where a food item’s ingredients have not been disclosed, Foodsteps will estimate the product composition using other, similar food items for which there is available data.

Do the carbon labels reflect ingredient sourcing?

Where the country of origin is unknown, we calculate the carbon footprint of food items in line with average British consumption, using International Trade Centre data to map where food in the UK is typically sourced from.

What is kg CO2e?

Carbon footprint refers to the greenhouse gas emissions released during a product’s life cycle and is measured in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (kg CO2e). Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride.

Can the A-E rating system and the impact per kilogram conflict?

Yes, the two pieces of information can occasionally conflict when comparing items with very different portion sizes. For example, small portions of high carbon intensity items may have a lower carbon footprint per serving than less carbon-intensive items served in large quantities. We think providing both pieces of information is key to comparing the carbon footprint of different food items fairly.

How can Foodsteps carbon labels help my customers eat within the daily carbon budget?

The EAT-Lancet Commission set a global carbon budget for the food system (farm stage only) at 5 gigatonnes of CO2e per year. We have scaled this budget to include downstream impacts of the food system, such as processing, packaging, transport, retail, end-mile transport, home storage, cooking, and end-of-life disposal. Through this, we calculated a carbon intensity allowance of 2.45 kg CO2e per person per day. Our calculations show that currently, the average global diet is 6.13 kg CO2e per day.

Look out for A-rated (or ‘Very Low’ impact) items which will help you to stay within the food carbon budget!

Why are the Foodsteps carbon labels only available to customers on the Premium and Enterprise tier?

Foodsteps has set a higher bar for the number of data points required for the provision of carbon labels. On the Premium and Enterprise plans, we require information from the product’s entire life cycle. Foodsteps performs a rigorous verification process to ensure the quality and reliability of the carbon labels, which your customers can have confidence in.

What do the labels mean?

Similar to the nutritional labels that you find on food wrappers, our labels provide two pieces of information on the carbon footprint of a food item:

Traffic light and A to E rating - carbon footprint per kilogram - the emissions embedded in a kilogram of the product. This is the value displayed on the label (Kg CO2e/per Kg of the item)

The A to E rating allows for fair comparison between items with different serving sizes. For example, it wouldn't be fair to compare the carbon footprint per serving of a starter, such as garlic prawns, with a main course dish, such as a seafood paella. Our carbon intensity rating system therefore helps to standardise the carbon footprint of lots of different items.

How is the Foodsteps carbon label rated and why is it done that way?

The Foodsteps A to E rating is based on the carbon intensity (or carbon footprint per kilogram) of each food item. Foodsteps assesses the carbon intensity of an item according to EAT-Lancet's global carbon budget for food, established in 2019 to help achieve healthy diets and sustainable food production.

After scaling the budget to include downstream impacts of the food system (i.e. post-farm impacts), we have calculated a carbon intensity allowance of 2.45 kg CO2e per person per day. Our calculations show that currently the average global diet is 6.13 kg CO2e per day.

Look out for A-rated (or ‘Very Low’) impact items to help you stay within budget.

Can every food business use the Foodsteps carbon label?

Our carbon labels are best suited for food service organisations, such as caterers, restaurants, and cafes. Sign up to the "Premium" plan to get access to our automatically generated carbon labels.

If your business doesn’t match this criterion (including takeaway-only restaurants, and food brands), contact us to discuss how we can make the carbon labels work for you.

Does Foodsteps offer carbon labels?

Yes, we do. Our carbon labels display the carbon footprint per serving of each item, which refers to the greenhouse gas emissions released from farm to waste.

Food items are rated based on their carbon intensity (or carbon footprint per kilogram), from A ('Very Low' impact) to E ('Very High' impact). This rating is highlighted by a traffic light colour system.

Life Cycle Assessment
Is the Foodsteps LCA performed in accordance with the GHG Protocol Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standards?

Yes, it is also aligned with the ISO 14040 Standard, and follows the GHG Protocol Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard. We can organise for the assessment to be reviewed and verified by an independent third party.

Does Foodsteps provide Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) for products?

For companies that want a more tailored analysis of their food product's emissions, Foodsteps performs full LCAs. These are used to understand the specific carbon footprint of your food item, following its precise journey from farm to waste.

Foodsteps has an enthusiastic team of data scientists ready to guide you through the process.

What are the different life cycle stages, and what do they mean?

There are many different stages within a food item’s life cycle that must be accounted for as emissions sources. We’ve curated an easy to understand list of key terms below.


Emissions arising from land use change (burning and carbon stock), farming, feed, and on-farm processing.


Emissions arising from the processing and storage of ingredients.


Emissions arising from raw material acquisition, pre-processing, manufacture of packaging, transport to product systems, and end-of-life after disposal.

Emissions arising from the transport of ingredients between stages. This includes transport from the farm to the processor, from processor to retail, and between processors if there are multiple. This also includes storage throughout the life-cycle journey, such as household storage, both pre-and post-preparation. This does not include the end-mile transport from the retailer to the consumption location. 


Emissions arising from retail operations. This includes the impacts of any chilling at retail and apportioned impacts of the retail facility, such as lighting and air conditioning.


Emissions arising from transporting food items from their retail location to the location of consumption. This does not include the transport of the consumer to the retail location. 

Emissions that arise from food preparation, such as appliance usage.

Food Waste

Emissions arise from product disposal throughout the life cycle by anaerobic digestion, composting, incineration, sewer disposal, and landfilling. This also includes emissions from the production of food lost throughout the supply chain.

What is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method of measuring the environmental impact of a product during its lifetime. LCAs are used to understand the detailed carbon footprint of a food item at each stage of its life cycle, from the farm stage all the way through to the end of its life as waste material.

Product Knowledge
Does Foodsteps support other languages?

Currently, our services are only available in English. We will be expanding our services to support more languages.

How does Foodsteps manage my data?

Foodsteps Limited respects your privacy and is committed to protecting your personal data. This Privacy Notice will inform you as to how we look after your personal data when you visit our website or use our services (regardless of where you visit/use it from), and tell you about your privacy rights and how the law protects you.

We recommend that you read this Notice in full to ensure you are fully informed about how we collect, use, store, or otherwise process your personal information as well as your data protection rights.

You can find our full privacy policy here.

What does ‘Average Sourcing’ mean?

We use average sourcing data from UN Comtrade, as well as production data from FAOSTAT, to model the average sourcing mix of ingredients when consumed in specific locations. This allows us to provide impacts that reflect the production systems from which food is likely to have been sourced. You can change the country of origin yourself on Foodsteps.

What is a ‘Collection’?

A Collection is a way for you to arrange your recipes into different groups. For example, you can create a weekly menu collection. This function can help you to separate meals or ranges served at different times. E.g. breakfast, plant-based or a seasonal menu.

I have added an item, but I can only see "Impact Pending" instead of a Carbon Footprint. What does this mean?

This means that we can't calculate the impact of the item or one of its ingredients. This could be because it is not currently in our database, or because you've entered an ‘each’ quantity (e.g. 3 apples) which we can't resolve because we haven’t yet found information on the weight of a single item, or it is a non-countable item such as water or rice. You can fix this by using a volume or weight quantity instead.

It could also be because the ingredient doesn't exist in our database. In these cases, we'd encourage you to attempt to find an equivalent ingredient in the drop-down list, or create a sub-recipe for the ingredient if you know it. Customers on plans Premium and Enterprise can also request that we research the impact of ingredients that are not in our database. It's fine to enter an ingredient that doesn't appear in the dropdown.

Disclaimer: This feature is only available to customers on our Premium and Enterprise tiers.

What does ‘post-preparation storage’ mean?

This refers to the storage of the item after it has been prepared. For example, pre-prepared sandwiches in a café that are kept in a display fridge.

When adding a recipe what should I do if I can't find my ingredient in the dropdown?

As you enter an ingredient, you'll see a dropdown listing ingredients in our database. It's fine to enter an ingredient that doesn't appear in the dropdown. If you enter an ingredient that isn’t currently on our database, our data team will get a notification and begin analysing the emissions data. Their findings will then be added to our database. We know you may be keen to move forward with your recipes, but to get accurate results we do encourage all our customers to use the ingredient described in your recipe rather than the closest match you can find on our existing database.

What do I need to understand about nutritional information?

Certain nutritional food groups, such as protein, tend to have a relatively high carbon intensity. Items in these categories are likely to have a higher impact. Our labels should be used as a guide alongside other information, such as recommended allowances for calories or salt and sugar, to help consumers make a balanced decision (See ‘carbon labels’ section.)

Why does Foodsteps use carbon intensity?

Using carbon intensity means we can show whether a food item has a low or high carbon footprint, regardless of the product’s serving size or meal category (i.e. starter, main course or dessert). This allows for fair comparison between different food items. UK nutritional labels similarly allocate traffic light colours according to values 'per 100g'.

What does carbon intensity mean?

The embodied emissions in one kilogram of a food item, measured in kilograms of CO2e per kilogram of food. This can be thought of as the carbon footprint per kilogram. The A to E impact rating used on the Foodsteps carbon label is based on the carbon intensity.

Lowering the carbon intensity of a product or recipe is often a more significant intervention to reduce overall emissions as it does not rely on the overall quantity of a product or recipe used.

Does Foodsteps offer full product Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs)?

Yes, we do. Please get in touch or, go to our Life Cycle Assessment section here in our FAQs to find out more.

Can Foodsteps support me in procurement data reporting (Scope 3 - Purchased Goods and Service)

Yes, we can. To start, you can contact our Sales Team, or fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch shortly.

How do I access Foodsteps?

Foodsteps is for any company who wants to start delving into the environmental impact of their food. You can start for free by signing up, and if you want to find out more about how our solutions can help you then get in touch with our Sales Team.

Is there a free trial option for Foodsteps

All users can start using our Free tier, which has no set trial period, to get a feel for our services before upgrading to a higher tier. Once you’re ready to take the next step on your impact reduction journey, you can upgrade at any time within the Plans page, within your Foodsteps profile.

What payment options can I use?

We accept payment by credit and debit cards, which is all conducted through Stripe. If you have any queries around payment, get in touch with us at support@foodsteps.earth.

How much does it cost to use Foodsteps?

All users can start using our Free plan, which has no set trial period, to get a feel for our services before upgrading to a higher plan. Once you’re ready to take the next step on your impact reduction journey, you can upgrade at any time within the Plans section on your Foodsteps profile.

Food Stories
What are Food Stories?

A food story is a marketing tool in the shape of a mobile-friendly webpage. For example, it might provide supporting information on the calculations behind our carbon labels to help with Green Claims Code compliance. Another alternative is showcasing our methodology and how your business is trying to lower its food’s environmental impact. If your business would find value in utilising Foodsteps Food Story get in touch with your Customer Service Manager.

Need to talk to our team?

Join the companies who already use Foodsteps@ to measure, report and reduce their environmental impact.