BOXD Health: Whey Shake

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Aakanksha Bharadwaj
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BOXD Health aims to make nutrition simple and achievable for women by offering protein shakes filled with protein, vitamins, and other essential nutrients. Through these products, they want to help fight diet culture while also taking responsibility for their actions and their impacts on the environment. Their website mentioned sustainability as a main value several times, especially with regards to their packaging, but there are several other aspects—from sustainable processes to company transparency—that must be considered to help the consumer understand or believe their sustainability goals.

What it's made of:


The protein in their protein shakes comes from whey, a byproduct of the cheese-making process. Without being utilized as a protein powder, whey often enters waterways as a pollutant, so processing it for other uses can actually reduce the environmental impacts. Dairy production is generally not a very sustainable process, with its large water consumption and emissions, but regardless, dairy and cheese production are fairly widespread. Since the demand for whey is less than that for cheese at the moment, however, the re-utilization is actually a good thing, as it does not necessarily increase dairy demand but does reduce whey-caused contamination. At some point, if demand for whey surpasses that for cheese, whey might not be an environmentally-friendly source of protein, but for now, it is actually beneficial to waterways. 

BOXD claims that its protein is, in addition to being whey-based, “premium”; it is, however, unclear in what sense they mean it: premium regarding taste? Regarding health benefits? Regarding sustainable sourcing? 

Another ingredient they add is golden flaxseeds, which can improve digestion, lower blood pressure, and offer other health benefits. Since BOXD uses only non-GMO products, the flaxseeds do not come from a place where they can badly contaminate the environment. However, the production process requires moderate water usage (approximately 5000 liters for a kilogram of flaxseed), although it probably varies a little across manufacturers; if they have not already, I would encourage BOXD to look more closely at their flaxseed source and assess its water efficiency. In other aspects, however, flaxseed is fairly environmentally-friendly, with a CO2 emission equal to product weight.

Other than the significant amount of protein in the shakes, the drinks also have several vitamins. Several of these, such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, are found in significant amounts naturally in whey protein isolate. BOXD Health offers its whey isolate multi-nutrient mix for purchase in different quantities and frequencies. Instead of selling entire drinks, however, they sell sachets and provide recommended recipes and methods to prepare drinks or foods with them. This seems an interesting method, as many of the ingredients (e.g. milk) are up to the consumer to source. 

Another important part of their product is the packaging, which is all recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable. Their boxes are made of 80% recycled material and 20% from sustainable sources, which are not listed but are FSC-certified, meaning that the wood sources are responsibly managed. 


How it's made:


One other vitamin that is on their ingredient list is cyanocobalamin, a manufactured form of Vitamin B12. Whey has a fair amount of natural forms of Vitamin B12, so it is unclear whether they are using cyanocobalamin to refer to the vitamins already in the powder or as an additional fortification. 

Their website shows different components of their protein blend, but I found it to be a little confusing. As in the previous section, I’m assuming the vitamins mentioned are just found in the whey itself, since they are naturally present, albeit not always in significant quantities. If this is not the case, however, and BOXD is adding vitamins into their mixes, that’s a lot of extra processing that the ingredients are going through. For example, many vitamins from their B complex are found in natural sources but must be processed and refined (and then of course transported), all of which require energy and other material resources. If they are in fact adding some vitamins, it might be more beneficial to add (or even just recommend in their recipes to use with their whey sachets) natural sources (for instance, B12 from natural sources instead of manufactured types). In either case, however, I would recommend adding more information about the sources of these vitamins and other nutrients; are they from the whey, or are they additives? If they are additives, where are they coming from, and how are they processed? When so many companies engage in greenwashing, it can be hard for people to know when to trust a company’s claim of being “green,” so the more information that is readily available, the better. 


Who makes it:


While any additional ingredients are up to the buyers to choose, BOXD itself is responsible for the flavor of the whey isolate, which contains the protein and other nutrients. One of their main values, as listed on their website alongside diversity in patronage and reliable nutritional information, is sustainability in their materials and processes.

 The company promotes health over diet as assistance in the fight against diet culture, even offering several blog posts to educate readers on health and nutrition. Their decision to focus their business toward women stems from the fact that most protein products are directed toward men, and when they are not, are marketed as weight-loss products instead of a nutritious supplement. Their dedication specifically to women, as well as the extra lengths they go to by providing articles and other information through their blogs, shows an interest in the well-being of their customers, which sheds a positive light on their other social responsibilities as well, including being sustainable. 

The details of their sustainable efforts, as mentioned in previous sections, are vague; any other companies on their supply chain are not listed, although their ingredients themselves do seem sustainable. There is evidence of working toward being more sustainable, as shown by their request to be reviewed on this aspect, but their actual efforts cannot be evaluated effectively with limited information.

Many companies claim to be invested in sustainable practices, but it is difficult to tell apart the ones who really care and those who are truly trying if there are not many specifics. The details that are present show dedication to minimizing environmental impacts, but I would highly encourage including easily-accessible information about the ingredients, sources, and the manufacturing process to truly show the depth and credibility of that dedication.