Bits And Bytes

Shopwell Puts The App In Appetite

By Stewart Putney | January 15, 2015
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These days, one of the largest challenges for consumers who want to eat healthily is that we have almost too many choices and sometimes too much information. The modern supermarket has tens of thousands of products, and those products often have dozens of not-always-recognizable ingredients.

If consumers have dietary restrictions, making a decision becomes even harder. And most people can’t bring a dietitian with them to the store.

Happily, as is often the case these days, there is an app for that. The ShopWell app, available for iPhone and Android, is free and works in the store and at home. Users register with their age, gender and some basic health goals and any allergies and then scan the barcode of a product with their mobile phone’s camera or search for a product in the 350,000-item database. ShopWell quickly analyzes the product’s ingredients and nutritional content for a fit with the user’s dietary goals and restrictions, and then advises whether the product is a good choice for the user.

When a product doesn’t fit the user’s dietary needs, ShopWell also makes suggestions for healthier alternatives. If the user is shopping, the recommendations will be products available in the store they’re in. ShopWell also employs a full-time registered dietitian to send regular, personalized health tips to ShopWell users. And there are a lot of ShopWell users—the app has been downloaded over 1.8 million times and makes 10,000 recommendations every day.

With that many users, ShopWell has a huge trove of data about consumers’ food choices—and it’s data that retailers and brands crave. As ShopWell’s Elliott Grant says, “We wanted to crowdsource consumer feedback on food. ShopWell users are important because they are shopping with their health in mind ... we analyze their activity to better understand and serve the health and wellness market.”

ShopWell works with producers and retailers to predict consumer preferences, spot product white spaces and ensure stores carry the right products, all while carefully protecting users’ privacy.

This data-driven business model also allows ShopWell to be a free service without displaying advertising. And this matters to Grant and the ShopWell team. “It is important that we remain ad-free so consumers trust we aren’t being influenced in what products we display or recommend,” says Grant. “We are focused on providing the best information based on good dietary science.”

With a growing base of users, a foundational patent and interest from retailers, the ShopWell team now plans to expand beyond the current product.

“Health and wellness is a burgeoning space, and there are so many important things we can do, the challenge for me is to keep us really focused,” says Grant. While not revealing his next move, one likely path is integrating with other food and wellness apps and services. Grant wants ShopWell to become the “trusted personalized nutrition engine built on solid science from dietitians” making healthy recommendations to
millions of people.

Regardless of what new features he adds to the ShopWell app, Grant is committed to the company’s vision. “We are trying to apply technology thoughtfully to make the world a better place to eat.”

Article from Edible Silicon Valley at http://ediblesiliconvalley.ediblecommunities.com/where-shop/shopwell-puts-app-appetite
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