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Review: Yuka is a free, insightful comparison tool for food and cosmetics

Developer: Yuca
Price: Free
Size: 197 MB
Version: 4.35
Platform: iPhone & iPad


If you’re at all concerned about what goes into your food and your cosmetics (which, let’s face it, we all should be), then shopping can be an exhausting experience. Scouring the back of each and every product before it goes into our basket is one thing, but parsing that information and figuring out all the terminology is quite another.

Yuka is an app that that does all of that for you. All you need to do is fire it up, and point your iPhone’s camera at the barcode. In an instant, the app will return a verdict on whether the product is good for you, utilizing a color-coded rating system based on several scientifically-derived metrics.

Product scanning is quick and intuitive

Tap on the product entry to expand it and you’ll gain more useful insight. This includes a list of positives – a “good quantity” of vegetables, to use one popular ketchup brand as an example – and negatives – “too much sodium”, to stick with said condiment.

Scroll down further and the app might supply you with a list of recommended alternatives. In the case of the aforementioned ketchup, Yuka recommended a bunch of alternative brands that don’t pack in quite so much salt or sugar.

Products are clearly broken down into positives and negatives

I scanned a number of products in, and only seemed to bump up against a wall with packaged vegetables and alcohol, neither of which the app supports. The former because the item is presumably too bespoke, and latter because – let’s face it – all alcohol is bad for us.

Some may feel that the app’s standards are somewhat exacting and even nannying, especially when every single cosmetic seems to fail its rigorous organic-focused standards. Personally, I find it to be a valuable advisory note, and one that’s always sought rather than forced down your throat. You’ll prise my additive-and-salt-ridden hot lime pickle from my cold dead hands.

The Recommendations tab offers healthy alternatives

Yuka remembers all of your scans, and maintains a rolling list of ‘Bad’ products and their ideal alternatives under the Recs tab. It also contains an Overview tap that presents all of your scans in a pie chart, which might just tip you off that some lifestyle changes are in order.

Signing up to be a premium member (on a limited choose-your-own-price basis) lets you search for specific items, enables offline scanning, and lets you customise the app based on your food preferences. You can detect the presence of lactose or gluten, for example, making it the ideal assistant for those with food intolerances.

Your unhealthy lifestyle, portrayed in a pie chart

Even in its free form, Yuka is one of those rare apps that genuinely has the potential to enhance a fundamental part of your life. I can fully imagine whipping the app out whenever I encounter a tempting new product in the supermarket, just to see what hidden delights (or otherwise) it has for me. I can also see benefits in using it as a comparison tool when choosing between similar brands and products.

Yuka delivers valuable insights quickly and intuitively, and at no charge. Is there anything better you can say about an app?