Cherrypick's Nasty Nine UPFs

Identifying supermarket products as an ultra-processed food (UPF) or not sounds simpler than it is, and that’s because there is no single definition that is universally agreed upon.

At Cherrypick, we’re leading the charge with our data to help everyone understand whether each individual supermarket product is a UPF or not.

We’ve worked with experts in the field of UPFs to come up with our own system of identifying UPFs within products, based on the latest scientific research and through scrutinising the exact back-of-pack ingredients for each specific product. That way, we're not making generalisations about whole swathes of products, such as ‘supermarket bread’ or ‘sweetened yoghurts’. Instead, we're grouping the exact product you are buying, based on what’s in that product.

And as the research gets updated, and more legislation and consensus emerges around UPF definitions, we will be right there at the forefront, updating our data models.

Our "plain English" rule of thumb we follow:

A UPF contains ingredients you wouldn’t find in your kitchen cupboards or cook with at home. Usually, the ingredient lists are fairly long and hard to understand.

Some telltale signs of a UPF:

▫ A long ingredient list that is hard to understand

▫ You can’t pronounce some of it’s ingredients

▫ Your (great)grandma wouldn’t recognise it

▫ It comes with some "health halo marketing" that is trying to convince you it’s a healthful product. Examples of these are "no added sugar", "natural flavourings only", "low calories" or "high protein". Even "1 of your 5-a-day" can be used to disguise UPFs

Getting into the finer details, how do we classify products as a UPF or not? 

In close collaboration with our UPF advisor, Dr Yanaina Chavez Ugalde, we’ve gone through thousands of product examples to create a "hit list" of ingredients that signify that the product is a UPF (the "UPF nasties"). This is based on the latest evidence available, but given there is no single accepted definition of "what is a UPF", we stay open-minded that this list will change as more evidence comes to light. 

Next is the fun part. We go through the ingredients list for every product you can buy through Cherrypick and scour it for the presence of any of those "UPF nasties". 

Beyond that, it couldn’t be simpler. If a product has one of these UPF ingredients in, we say it’s a UPF. If it doesn’t, it’s not. Just to be sure, we review all the classifications to make sure our experts are happy with them.

And, because we believe in full transparency, we’ve listed out a summary of the "UPF nasties" here so you can see exactly what we’re looking for in the ingredients. There are several specific exceptions we have made along the way, and we’ll work towards publishing these in the future in a way that isn’t information-overload!

The "UPF nasties" list:

▫ Emulsifiers

▫ Stabilisiers, except natural ones such as pectin

▫ Preservatives - a word of caution here that we’ve made some exceptions if just this is present in the ingredients list, such as dried fruit

▫ Colourings and flavourings, except natural ones

▫ Sweeteners

▫ Modified starches

▫ Malted extracts

▫ Thickeners - except natural ones such as pectin

▫ Artificial antioxidants - not natural ones such as Vitamin C (ascorbic acid/ascorbate)

Click here to download the app and take a look for yourself.