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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton
Updated on Nov 22nd, 2022
Fact checked by Emma Vince

CodeCheck 2023: Transparent & Sustainable Shopping

Gabriele Ottino, CEO of CodeCheck gives us some insight into how we can promote healthy and sustainable consumption with this easy-to-use shopping assistant. 

Can you tell us how the idea for CodeCheck came about?

I joined as the CEO of CodeCheck in November 2020. However, our founder, Roman, started this many years ago, and I believe it was part of his Master’s thesis. 

He felt strongly that we should all be more aware of what goes into the things we consume, be that food or cosmetics. This was long before the existence of smartphones so all the data was user-generated content.

Fast forward to 2010, smartphones were everywhere, the scanning of barcodes was super easy and all the relevant information was available instantly. It was at this stage that the process was incorporated as a company, the first investors came in and the modern-day CodeCheck was born. Today we have 4.5 million users and more than 10 million downloads of our app. 

What does CodeCheck do?

It’s a mobile app that scans the barcodes of foods or cosmetics. The app then displays a rating and product recommendations based on the latest scientific research and individual settings.

This includes information on sustainability and nutrition. In a nutshell, we help you to shop more consciously and make decisions about which products you’re comfortable buying.

Who is your target audience?

About 70% of our users are female, aged between 30 and 35. We’re starting to expand and are trying to attract more male users. At the moment most of our users scan cosmetics rather than food even though we have very substantial data for food.

Do you think CodeCheck users are as concerned with the environment as they are with their own nutritional intake?

We’ve done quite a few surveys on this and there’s a high percentage of people who put health at the top of their priority list, but sustainability is always a very close second. 

The app can be personalized according to chosen criteria such as lactose-free, gluten-free, etc. Users can also specify items that are a priority to them such as palm oil or microplastics. We can then flag the products that include these priority items. 

What nutritional angle does CodeCheck take when looking at any given product?

We actually follow the British Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) recommendations and based on those standards, we have a traffic light system. Green for all clear, orange for a little suspect, etc.

We also recently started a partnership with a Swiss retailer where we provide the information on its website. It sends us all of its product data and in return, we send the company the ratings of its food products, which it displays on its website. Again, this helps with transparency and helping customers make better choices. 

In your opinion, how much impact does CodeCheck and Eaternity climate score have on manufacturers?

Having only launched in November it's difficult to comment on carbon footprint and the Eaternity score as it's such early days. We haven't seen a concrete impact on manufacturers yet. 

Of late, sustainability has become more of a concern in our society and I feel manufacturers are more willing and keen to work with us in order to understand customer trends and what constitutes sustainable consumption.

Have you considered providing animal testing information for listed cosmetic products?

This is one of the most requested features from our users, and we’re planning on introducing it as soon as possible.

Do you see CodeCheck going global?

We’re most active and very well positioned in the German-speaking markets. We have press and TV coverage almost daily. In fact, we’ve done so well that we’ve just launched a quality seal whereby products we’ve classified 95% green (and that don’t include some of the most harmful ingredients such as polymers and microplastics), are given the CodeCheck green label. This works in the markets where we’re well established because we have very high brand notoriety.

Outside of the German-speaking markets, we’re on the app stores in the UK, the Netherlands, and the US. It’s important to remember that before we go into a new market we have to have good quality data, and have a minimum level of product coverage for it to be successful.

How close are we to a “sustainable revolution”?

There’s a big and growing community of users who are very aware and interested in what they consume and want to know what they’re putting into and onto their bodies. I think we’re already IN the revolution, and this is why more and more producers and companies are climbing onto the sustainability bandwagon. 

Is there anything else you think our readers should know?

One thing that attracted me to CodeCheck, is that I really believe we hold the unique position of being able to enlighten both customers and producers. 

We bring transparency to customers and help them make more informed choices, and concurrently, we’re also in a position where we can provide producers with information to create better products for the future.

We remain independent, transparent, and science-based. If the product isn’t up to scratch, we’ll dismiss it. This way total trust is maintained between all parties involved.

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