Hi all GGC followers! I hope your palm oil challenge is going as well as ours is. In an earlier post about grocery shopping I talked briefly about two apps I use while shopping to help me find palm oil friendly products. As promised, its time to review these apps. Right off the bat I do want to thank these app developers for taking the initiative to develop apps to helps us be more conscious consumers. I have no doubt that these apps were created on shoestring budgets and I applaud their efforts. That said there is still room for improvement on both apps. With that out of the way let’s get right to the reviews. First up is Palm Oil Detector.
Palm Oil Detector
V. 1.0.9 for iPhone & iPad iOS 8.0 or higher
- Simple and easy to use
- Singular focus
- Speedy Scanner
- Accepts manual entry and scans of bar codes
- Ability to enter product information to be added to the database
- There are some issues with the layout and design
- More directions needed in the manual entry of the bar code
- I found it lacked information on most products I scanned
Stars: 2.8 out of 5
Palm Oil Detector is a free app available in the App Store and was developed by Riccardo Masci. The apps sole purpose is too scan products and check them against a database of products to determine if the product contains palm oil. I will say, I love the beautifully simple interface. There are no extra bells and whistles nor do you have to click through a bunch of menus to find the bar code scanner. When you open the app the first page contains the bar code scanner. You have two options for getting information about a product. The first is the bar code scanner.
Finding a product
The scanner uses your phone’s camera to scan a product’s bar code. The scanning action is smooth and pretty quick. I do wish there was a horizontal red line to help you line up the bar code to be scanned. I also have to give props for the database search. It’s quick!!
The other option is to manually enter the bar code. Again, the interface is simple. I wish the app had a little more direction on what numbers to input. If you look at the image below I have circled two numbers that need to be entered for the scan to work but it took me a couple of tries to figure out those numbers were part of the code.
One feature I did like that I have not seen in other apps is the ability to enter in product information to be added to the product database after review. This is a great community based way to grow the product database.
The app also provides some basic information about palm oil and why it is important to purchase palm oil friendly products. I’m not a huge fan of this feature because of the page interface. It consists of three cards that you swipe up and down to switch between and then scroll arrows to scroll through the card to find all of the information. You can also swipe left and right to access a how-to guide and a statistics graph of the products you’ve scanned. It would be better to have these pages in a separate menu or tab. This would then allow the user to swipe left and right between information cards and swipe up and down to scroll through the cards, which is the common gesture for scrolling on a smartphone. Finally, there is a tools page. The most useful tool is the share button. You can share via Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter.
In The End
Overall, I think the app is a great start and I really appreciate the single focus and speed of the app. I do think the layout and design could use some improvements as the interface can be a little confusing sometimes. Its worth a download to help build the database of products.
Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping
V. 2.0 for iPhone & iPad iOS 8.0 or higher
V 2.0 for Android 4.0.3 or higher
- Pleasing design
- Product search tool
- Find products by type
- Information about RSPO and palm oil
- Scanner not very informative
- Slow running speed especially with the scanner
- Unclear directions for the user about scan results
Stars: 2 out of 5
Next, is Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping, another free app, created by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The app contains a product search/scanner as well as information about sustainable palm oil and how you can make a difference. The interface is intuitive and has a pleasing design. I did find the start up of the app was a little slow which meant I had to wait in the grocery isles before I could scan a product. There were times when the ingredients list was short enough that it was quicker to read it then wait for the app. The main purpose of the app is the product search/scanner.
Finding a product
The option to scan appears right on the main screen which is nice but it takes you to a second screen where you need to click a button to start the scan. I would have preferred if it had taken me right to the scanner. I did appreciate that the scanner had a green box and a red horizontal line to help you focus the bar code. The database search was a little slower than the Palm Oil Detector app but I suspect they might have a larger database to comb through.
If there was a product listed it would bring up information about the product’s sustainability rating and whether the company was a member of the RSPO. However, if the product does not exist in the database it only says that as far as they are aware the company is not a member of the RSPO. I found this didn’t help me make a decision because I was still left with the question of whether the product contained any palm oil at all.
I found the product search tool was best if I need to find a type of product, say ketchup, but I wasn’t certain on what brand I wanted to buy. You simply type in ketchup and it returns a list a of palm oil friendly ketchup products. This is helpful before you go shopping as you can specify that on your list (step 1 of the shopping process).
You can also find a list of products by type. There are pages for food & drink, snacks, breakfast, pets, household, and personal care. This is useful if you always use a particular brand of product and what to check it. However, it’s time consuming if you are trying to decide between a couple of different brands. This is where I wished the scanner worked a little better.
One feature I did really like about the product page was the ability to send a message to a company about how they are doing. It opens a pre-written message to a pre-designated contact right inside of you phones default email client. I don’t know how up to date the contact information is because the app was last updated in August of 2016.
I also liked the list of RSPO members but I would have liked a little more information about the company. It would have been great to click on a company name and see their scorecard They also have a nice “speak up” tab that gives you tips on how to help wild orangutans. There are links to the zoo’s Facebook and Twitter page; but they look like share the app buttons, which would be a nice feature to have. They also have a blog, but it has not been updated since 2014.
There is a video tab as well, but I found the page was blank. I am not sure if that’s because there are no videos or there is a bug in the app. They also have a palm oil information tab which gives information about the palm oil crisis, making orangutan friendly choices, why we should not completely boycott palm oil, and an inspirational page on how your choices matter.
In The End
Overall, I found the app to be good looking and I found the product lists and manual search tool to work adequately. The most useful aspect of the app is all of the information it provides about palm oil and how you can get involved. There could be improvements made in speed and user directions. There could also be a more efficient way to look up products. I would not recommend downloading it just for the product scanner. I would download it for the useful information and the product list would be helpful for purging your house of non-friendly palm oil products.
What I was really looking for from both apps was a product scanner that would tell me whether or not a scanned product has palm oil in it, and if it does, how sustainable is it. I felt like neither app accomplished this. Often it was faster to read the ingredients than scan. I would not download either app for just the scanner. BUT, if you want to contribute to the sustainable palm oil effort I would download the Palm Oil Detector to contribute products to the database. And I would also download Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping for the useful information about the RSPO and palm oil.