Over the years, I’ve noticed frequently that many of my friends and family have a complex relationship with food. There are all these misunderstandings, a lack of confidence in the kitchen, and the biggest hurdle is finding an area of neutrality. I’m going to venture to say that everyone reading this right now has the same concept of what healthy means, which in relation to food, always creates a binary. This becomes further evident, with research demonstrating that 64% of consumers say they follow a diet that limits or prohibits consumption of some foods or ingredients. I want to preface that this is not a post on how to optimize your diet. I simply hope to share a problem I know we’ve all faced and tell you why, in a digital world, there should be no barriers to understanding your relationship with food―in the most objective way possible.
Growing up, my dad had diabetes so this had a huge impact on our relationship with food. For example, he wouldn’t allow me to drink soda…because it was “unhealthy”. Instead we would drink orange juice, since fruits are perceived as “healthy”. But what my dad missed, and what I am sure others have as well, is that most store bought “fruit juices” do not contain pulp. Pulp is one of the most nutritious parts of some fruits and helps with digestion. Instead, what you could wind up drinking is the equivalent amount of sugar that’s found in soda. For diabetics, a misunderstanding of what “healthy” means could be detrimental to their overall health. One goal that I hope to accomplish as part of my company’s mission is to help others understand food or a product’s full nutritional picture and how it will fit into your own unique diet.
I started LunchBox in 2017 with two friends (hi Dan & Montana), who shared my love for food, entrepreneurship, and were also craving something bigger. We wanted to reduce food waste by mapping every intersection of an individual’s food journey to continually empower, educate, and excite them about food. We dreamt of connecting data between what is found in their kitchens, to what they were placing in either their physical or digital shopping carts, and matching it with recipes to help them stay energized and encouraged. But inevitably, all startups pivot.
Last year, we were lucky enough to attend a top food and consumer packaged goods (CPG) conference in Las Vegas called Grocery Shop. The conference was truly next level, and I got the chance to meet with executives from popular food brands and retailers to pitch our idea. I’d end each pitch by asking what the biggest problems they were facing were, and they each said: product information. I hadn’t thought of this before, but hearing how a lack of good product information was affecting the supply chain and thus consumers made me think of my dad. The lack of reliable product information stems from inefficiencies in the operational side of the supply chain. In fact, 90% of online product listings have either missing information or inaccurate information.
Hundreds of brands and retailers don’t own their digital data and rely on consultants to collect product information and transfer them into databases. Unfortunately, this can not scale thus making the use of tools paramount in a company enabling it’s operational employees to spend more time doing meaningful work. So, we decided to pivot in order to address the problem that so many retailers and brands are facing and tackle the issue of product listings head on, as we knew we could create a unique solution. We added a new team member (hi Daniel!) who is adept at Machine Learning and AI to help build out Foodspace Tech, a tool to capture product information via Computer Vision Technology. With just a product photo, we are able to capture written information on CPG products and store it in a database for brands and retailers to use as valuable Q&A, e-commerce, and brand data. This technology is invaluable to brands, not only saving them time and resources but providing them even more data and analytics into their products. Additionally, on the consumer side, this is a huge benefit, seeing that 69% of consumers said not having enough information or details about the product was their first or second reason for abandoning a product page.
Several months ago, we began a pilot with Walmart Labs, which was key to validating our product and helped us reach investors and other connections that will allow us to propel our vision into something bigger. We feel strongly about our mission to shift both consumers’ and the industries’ mindset on food and nutrition, and believe technology is simply a means to bring us closer to transparency in our products. Today, Foodspace offers Machine Learning computer vision and Natural Language Processing technology that can work in a variety of lighting environments and can handle multiple angles and skew. Once uploaded to our system, we can compare a brand or retailers internal records to the photo to spot discrepancies across product listings.
8 in 10 US consumers (82%) and three-quarters (75%) of global respondents say they will continue to buy a brand they trust, even if another brand suddenly becomes hot and trendy. This alone should be enough to radically change the way they capture and process product information. I’m thrilled to be able to finalize our first major round of funding with strong investment partners that believe in the utility of what we’re building, but also see our mission. This is just the beginning of the conversation on product transparency. I’m looking forward to supporting brands and retailers as they navigate online grocery shopping during and post COVID.
(2) Foodspace proprietary data compiled from external resources 2020. Contact us for more details.