Evocco teaches consumers how to be sustainable shoppers

12 Nov 2018

From left: Evocco co-founders Hugh Weldon and Ahmad Mu’azzam. Image: Dora Kazmierak

Our Start-up of the Week is sustainable shopping app Evocco, which helps consumers find out the environmental impact of their shopping.

“Evocco is a smartphone app which educates consumers on the environmental impact of their food purchases and provides them with tools to help them reduce it,” said Evocco co-founder and eco-entrepreneur Ahmad Mu’azzam.

Co-founder Hugh Weldon recently won a top United Nations (UN) environmental prize for the app at the Champions of the Earth ceremony in New York, coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly meeting. He was one of seven global winners from 750 applications for young entrepreneurs under the age of 30 with big ideas for environmental change.

‘Consumers are driving growth in the ethical food market, which is roughly 5pc of total food market in the UK and Ireland, and worth about €12bn’

The Evocco app is free and helps you to find out the environmental impact of your shopping basket in just a few seconds, giving you tips on how you can make your shopping purchases more environmentally friendly.

“Users simply take a photograph of their food shopping receipt and are instantly shown the impact of their food purchases,” Mu’azzam explained. “They can track their progress over time and are given tips to help them make a difference every single day.”

The market

He continued: “We are targeting the conscious consumer whose purchases are driven by ethical and environmental beliefs.”

Mu’azzam said that the growth in this consumer segment has been huge in the last year, with a 101pc increase in veganism, 52pc increase in red meat avoidance and 30pc increase in vegetarianism in the UK, of which 57pc changed dietary behaviours for environmental or animal welfare reasons.

“These consumers are driving growth in the ethical food market, which is roughly 5pc of total food market in the UK and Ireland, and worth about €12bn.

“However, these consumers are struggling to align their beliefs with their purchases. This is predominantly due to the lack of easily accessible, understandable and relatable information on the issue, resulting in widespread public confusion and frustration. ‘Do I buy the loose bananas or the organic, Fairtrade ones wrapped in plastic?’ These are the types of questions which consumers are finding hard to answer. There is appetite for a solution to empower consumers to take individual action and make more informed food purchases.”

The founders

Two smart dressed young men in grey and blue jackets listen intently.

From left: Evocco co-founders Ahmad Mu’azzam and Hugh Weldon. Image: Dora Kazmierak

“Hugh and I met each other at the beginning of a five-year integrated master’s in mechanical engineering in Trinity College. Hugh grew up in the countryside in Co Meath and was interested in equestrian sports from a young age. I grew up in the suburbs of Dublin and was a rugby fan growing up. We’ve lived together in Ireland, Milan on Erasmus studying aeronautical engineering, and Switzerland where we took part in the MassChallenge Accelerator in Lausanne working on the early concepts of Evocco.

“In 2015, we won Trinity Jailbreak by reaching mystery location X, Lake Bled, first, and raising over €2,000 for St Vincent de Paul and Amnesty International. Jailbreak is Ireland’s largest student-run charity event. It involves about 70 teams of two blagging their way across Europe to a mystery location with no money, to raise awareness and funds for Amnesty International and the St Vincent de Paul Society. In 2015, Jailbreak raised over €60,000 for the two charities.”

The technology

Evocco uses computer vision to take in the receipt data. “We match the products on the receipt with those in our database, and deliver a five-star rating to the consumer. The five-star rating is based upon the carbon footprint of the product and takes into account some nutrition factors. This ensures you get the most nutritious food for the least environmental impact.”

Mu’azzam said that the mission is to make environmental impact a key factor in all consumer purchasing decisions.

“The climate movement has often alienated sections of society and so we decided to start with food, as everybody eats. It is something we make decisions on multiple times a day and have an intimate relationship with, making it the perfect starting point for behavioural change.

“Food also accounts for 30pc of global greenhouse gas emissions and so is an area where great impact can be made. However, it is just a starting point. In the future, we intend to move beyond food and help the consumer at multiple touchpoints to help them make positive impact every single day.”

Planting important seeds

Mu’azzam said that Evocco is currently beta-testing the app and has completed its first round of testing. “You can sign up to be one of our dedicated testers at www.evocco.com. We are currently focusing on getting the app to launch this year and intend to open a seed round in early 2019.”

He said that coming straight out of college and immediately going on to the project full-time has been a steep learning curve.

“We are trying to compensate for limited resources and experience with enthusiasm and passion. We both moved back home with our parents, and did some part-time work such as giving grinds or teaching on weekends in the Centre for Talented Youth to keep ourselves afloat. Bar a few grey hairs on Hugh’s head and my incapability of staying awake through a full movie, we have thoroughly enjoyed the experience so far.”

Mu’azzam describes the Irish start-up environment as vibrant and full of people with great ideas. “It’s inspiring to be part of a community of open-minded people trying to make a difference and leave their mark on the world.”

His advice for fellow founders? “Really try to thoroughly understand the problem you are solving. Talk to as many people as you can about your idea and try to validate your assumptions as quickly as possible along the way.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years