Fooducate: The Award Winning iPhone Nutrition App now has a Diabetes Version
As a member of the Patient Solutions Team within Sanofi US Diabetes, I’m excited to see the launch of the new app, Diabetes Nutrition by Fooducate. The original Fooducate is an app that explains what’s really inside grocery store products and grades them simply by scanning the barcode with a smartphone. Diabetes Nutrition by Fooducate is built on the same basic concept, but has specific features to help people with diabetes and pre-diabetes manage a healthier diet.
The founder of Fooducate, Hemi Weingarten, is here to explain more about the apps and how they help users make smarter food choices in the grocery store and at home.
Q: Hi Hemi, thanks so much for your time today. Can you start by telling us a little about your background?
A: Believe it or not, I actually started professionally programming when I was just 14 years old. By my late twenties I switched over to marketing and business development. My entrepreneurial interests grew and I started a digital content company with two friends in the aftermath of the dot com bubble. We successfully sold our startup a few years later.
Q: Why did you decide to create the original Fooducate app?
A: Once I got married and our family started to grow, I took interest in the kinds of food my children were eating. One day, my wife brought home glow-in-the-dark yogurt and I was curious as to the color source. So I read the ingredient label for the first time in my life. There was one ingredient that was particularly startling, RED #40. I looked it up and discovered it is a potentially harmful food coloring banned in Europe because of possible links to health problems, but yet it is allowed in the United States. At that point, I realized there were not any useful tools to help consumers make smarter food choices. I decided to create an information resource for people to educate themselves about the food they eat.
I started Fooducate as a consumer blog in 2008 to help families like my own. I realized the potential of smartphones in 2009 and assembled a team to start working on an iPhone® app for Fooducate. The iPhone app was released in early 2011. An Android™ version made its debut a few months later.
Q: Can you describe the app for us?
A: After you scan a barcode at the grocery store, Fooducate instantly shows a “nutrition dashboard” with three core components:
- A color-coded nutrition grade (e.g. “A,” “B+,” “C-”), which is calculated using our scientific algorithm that analyzes the information on the product package, including the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list.
- A brief list with bullet point explanations of product highlights (good and bad).
- The option to look at healthier alternatives.
For example, say you scanned a cereal with almonds and cranberries expecting it to get an “A” on the nutrition grade. You’re surprised that it only gets a “C+,” but Fooducate explains it is because the product is not made with whole grains, it contains more sugar than Froot Loops® and uses a controversial preservative. Then, the app gives you suggested alternatives that rate from a “B” up to an “A-” by judging them on natural ingredients and low sugar content. Other great features of the app include the ability to compare two different foods side-by-side, creation of a healthy shopping list and access to real user reviews of the product.
Q: How does Fooducate differ from other nutrition apps?
A: Unlike many calorie or carb counting apps, Fooducate analyzes the actual ingredients list versus just the calorie or fat content. A product with zero calories could get a “D” because it uses unsafe additives such as artificial colors and sweeteners.
We developed our product grading algorithms with the help of dietitians, nutrition labeling experts and nutrition profiling pioneer, Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., of the University of Washington in Seattle. Fooducate currently grades more than 200,000 unique products and our list is growing all of the time.
Q: Wow, 200,000 products! How did you obtain so many?
A: We’ve built the database over the course of three years. We started with information from manufacturers, but not all of them had data easily available for us to use. Now, we are mostly relying on users who submit product information: when a user scans a product we don’t currently have in our system, he or she is asked to take three pictures: the front of package, the nutrition label and the ingredient list. We then key in the data of the most popular products into our database, and they get automatically graded. The next time a user scans that product, the app contacts our servers and is able to display the nutrition dashboard.
Q: The Diabetes Nutrition by Fooducate app launched recently. How does it differ from the original Fooducate app?
A: The diabetes app focuses on the special nutrition needs of people living with diabetes. The grading algorithm looks more carefully at calories and nutrition information such as carbohydrates, saturated fats and sodium. Compared to the original app, it is more lenient with artificial sweeteners. Additionally, there are many helpful suggestions and the grading system is catered to people living with diabetes. For example, a cereal that’s given a “C+” in the original Fooducate app may get a “C-” in the diabetes version.
Q: Fooducate was selected by Apple® as best iPhone health and fitness app in 2011. Did you have any idea it would be so successful?
A: When we started on the journey of creating the app, we all believed we were addressing a real need, but we did not know what to expect. The feedback and reviews from users were very positive from day one, which was a wonderful feeling. This feedback has continued to be a great motivator for the Fooducate team and the positive accolades from Apple and the U.S. Surgeon General were pleasant surprises as well.
Thanks so much to Hemi for taking the time to share more information about Fooducate and Diabetes Nutrition by Fooducate. Users are definitely finding the apps beneficial and I’m excited to see what’s to come.
Director, Diabetes Patient Solutions Team
Disclosures: Hemi Weingarten received no compensation for this post. Diabetes Nutrition by Fooducate was created through a partnership with Sanofi US. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
Apple® is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
Android™ is a trademark of Google Inc.
Froot Loops® is a registered trademark of Kellogg Inc.
iPhone® is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.