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You are what you eat, so the old saying goes. And a bevy of food and nutrition apps now aims to provide more insight into what consumers are ingesting.
One example is INRFOOD, available for iOS and Android devices. INRFOOD encompasses a mobile app, a website and a database of 250,000-plus packaged food products. A user scans a product’s barcode and INRFOOD analyzes the ingredients for nutritional, medical and cultural concerns.
We recently spoke to Keval Mehta, founder and chief executive officer of INRFOOD Inc., based in Durham, N.C., about the app and its development and marketing
What’s the background behind INRFOOD?
Keval Mehta: My background deals with the healthcare field; I wanted to revolutionize healthcare. So the idea was to take on healthcare, focusing on two aspects of a healthy lifestyle: diet and exercise.
When it comes to diet and food, I looked at the ingredients in packaged food and I couldn’t pronounce half of the ingredients in there. It seemed like it was more chemicals than anything else. I came up with the idea to put together some way for people to easily identify the ingredients and the composition of their food and then relate that to any medical or cultural concerns they might have. We really wanted to answer one of the biggest questions: Why is something bad for me?
So we came up with a universally known system: the traffic light. Any ingredient highlighted in red is to be avoided. Yellow is for moderation. Green is safe and/or nutritious.
However, that system didn’t apply to everyone, so we needed to have it personalized. There are two main reasons people are very selective about what they eat: a medical concern or a cultural concern. We decided to embed both in there. The idea is that if a person is pregnant or has a heart condition or has diabetes or one of the top seven allergies, the app will flag with a medical concern. And if a person is vegan or vegetarian, it will flag with a cultural concern.
How did you go about developing the mobile app and web components of INRFOOD?
K.M.: We decided to collaborate with local startups -- a web development firm and a mobile firm. We were central command and put everything together and they were more like contractors. As a startup, that allowed us to lower our costs as far as not having a full development staff, but we still got the same outcome.
The actual infrastructure of INRFOOD can be replicated for other markets as well. The mobile app, the database structure remain the same. We hope to leverage that and speed up our time to market.
How do you go about marketing INRFOOD?
K.M.: Our marketing budget is really low, so we are pairing up with like-minded organizations. We were at TechCrunch Disrupt -- opportunities came out from that.
We won the Blue Cross/Blue Shield health innovation challenge. We’re partnering with an HBO documentary on what is in your food and partnering with hospitals and leveraging their user bases.
We are in talks with Duke University Hospital and UNC Chapel Hill and we’re also in talks with large national organizations. We were contacted by nonprofits as well as government agencies to collaborate with them. We are trying to outline all the different possibilities, what is strategically best for us.
What’s next for INRFOOD?
K.M.: We are at 10 percent of where we want to be. Going forward, we have big things planned. We are going to expand into other cultural concerns like pescetarians (vegetarians who eat fish), and Halal and Kosher as well. We plan on expanding the medical concerns to over 60 medical concerns. We are also working on fast food, looking to do what we do with everyday, packaged foods. That’s targeted for the end of spring. A few months later, we will have INRBODY as well. INRBODY does it for cosmetics, lotions and deodorant, breaking down all the chemicals that are in there.
Photo: Corbis Images
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