Communicating the environmental impact of plant based recipes

project funded by The Alpro Foundation

Project description

Plant-based diets are becoming popular across Europe but are not yet mainstream. If we are to shift diets across Europe, the recipes on offer must be appealing to consumers, and there must be evidence that dietary changes will make a difference. However, there are a limited number of tools available to communicate the complex impacts of shifting to plant-based dietary patterns for different European food cultures. Indeed, since consumers typically understand food choices as meals and recipes rather than as diets2, a recipe impact tool has long been requested by the public.3 In 2019 Dr Reynolds (PI) piloted the creation of a Natural Language Processing (NLP)4 tool that automatically calculated the greenhouse gas emission and calories of a recipe’s ingredients and cooking method5. In this research we will expand this tool to express the biodiversity, economic, and climate benefits of plant-based recipes. This novel tool will be a step change in allowing consumers (and food professionals) the opportunity to visualise and communicate plant-based food sustainability. This will help motivate consumers to shift towards plant-based diets. The project’s novelty lies in the integration of NLP methods with environmental impacts and nutrition. This work is cutting edge and possible only due to the interdisciplinary collaboration of its investigators. As the language technology we are developing is aimed at automating recipe analysis, it paves the way for bringing food, nutrition, and sustainability research into the realm of big data, we expect this project to have a wide impact across the food system and academica.


This research produces a tool that calculates the calories, the ​biodiversity​, economic, and climate benefits of plant-based recipes​. This will increase food-climate awareness in consumers, offering them a means to ​investigate tradeoffs and ​integrate sustainable healthy food into different European food cultures​. Our targeted outputs will inform consumers, food professionals and policy makers. Outputs include: