Making Strides: Fitness Versus Food Tech

By Sarah Kunkle and Gillian Christie

Do you want to track your physical activity? There are countless options for smartwatches and fitness trackers that automatically record your daily steps and workouts. Do you want to track your nutrition? Unfortunately, your options are more limited and the process is still relatively manual. Wearables like Fitbit and Apple Watch generally include options for tracking food intake, but a 2015 IMS report showed that fitness apps outnumbered diet and nutrition apps by 3 to 1. Given the evidence that “you can’t outrun a bad diet,” there is a particular need to focus on nutrition. As we celebrate national nutrition month in March, here are three startups making headlines as they seek to address this void and make life easier when it comes to keeping tabs on your diet.

Edamam offers nutrition analysis and meal recommendations as a data service. The company recently introduced a Nutrition Data API, which provides real-time analysis of any ingredient in a recipe. Customers can enter information about the food in free text and Edamam’s natural language processing algorithms will then provide information for more than 30 key nutrients, including calories, fat, carbs, cholesterol, sodium, and all vitamins and minerals. The company has already partnered with The New York Times, Epicurious, Nestle, General Mills, and Samsung.

Zipongo is a personalized digital nutrition platform that helps employees navigate a company’s cafeteria menu to find choices that meet personal preferences and health goals. The company also provides users with recipes, shopping lists, and discounts on healthy items like fruits and vegetables. Since its debut in 2011, Zipongo has partnered with 125 companies, including Google, IBM and Microsoft. The company hopes that by improving the eating habits of employees, they can increase productivity, reduce sick days, and ultimately control health care costs.

Munchery is a food delivery service dedicated to providing high quality healthy food on demand. In addition to providing users with detailed ingredient lists and nutrition info on their website and mobile app, the company has partnered with Jawbone to automatically transmit nutritional data to the Jawbone UP app. Jawbone has similar partnerships with Orange Chef, PlateJoy, and HealthyOut. By automatically syncing this information, these companies are taking some of the pain out of keeping a food log.

A recent study showed that more than half of what Americans eat is “ultra-processed.” There are many systemic issues (e.g., food policy and socioeconomic inequality) contributing to poor diets. However, new technologies and innovative approaches (preferably informed by science and made affordable) could move us in the right direction. For example, Discovery Health provides up to a 25% rebate on healthy foods purchased at participating grocery stores. A RAND Corporation study found that these discounts improved diet quality, including increased fruit and vegetable consumption. In order to address the disease and economic burden attributable to chronic disease, we need more innovative companies focused on improving what we eat.



For those interested in learning more, Food+Tech Connect provides a comprehensive resource on the latest innovations and trends in food tech. Let us know if there are any nutrition apps or innovative food technologies that have caught your eye by sharing in the comments below or tweeting Vitality @VitalityUSA and Sarah Kunkle @Sareve.

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