Houston Health Ventures Invests in InRFood, NC-Based Food App
Not all calories are created equal, and Keval Mehta, founder and CEO of INRfood, says his app can help us sort the good from the bad.
INRfood is an app with a database of about 500,000 products and 650 restaurants nationwide. The technology analyzes ingredients—read off the nutrition label on food packaging—and gives users a red/yellow/green signal indicating whether a particular ingredient aligns with the user’s dietary restrictions and goals. So far, Mehta says the app has 100,000 users.
“Since nutrition is designed to be one-size-fits all, we’re reimagining and personalizing grocery shopping by understanding the ingredients that are in food,” Mehta says. “With a lot of the ingredient names you almost need a PhD in biochemistry to understand what they mean. We break that down.”
The startup was founded two years ago in Durham, NC, with a beta app and was part of last fall’s Health Wildcatters accelerator in Dallas. INRfood has raised about $250,000 in seed funding, including a recent investment from Houston Health Ventures.
INRfood’s app is intended to act like a personal digital nutritionist. When a user signs up, InRfood asks for age and weight information. Then the app asks you to specify any dietary restrictions or medical conditions—perhaps you’re vegan, pregnant, and allergic to gluten—and even allows you to customize certain parameters like reduced salt intake. Users can type in specific foods or scan the UPC codes of pre-packaged food. “The app can identify the ingredients in the food product that can be a concern, and highlight better options,” Mehta says.
The biggest challenge for company founders was building the app’s database of ingredients. “Nielsen had a database but just didn’t have the massive information that we needed,” Mehta says. “It was outdated; it didn’t carry private labels or ethnic foods.”
So they spent the last 18 months building a database with a team of nutritionists and dieticians by working with food manufacturers and retailers, and are planning a full launch of the app at the end of this month.
Among the functions that Mehta says the company is working on is enhanced geo-location, so if a user is in a food court, for example, the app can analyze the food options available and present them with their best choices based on their profile. Eventually, he says they see tie-ins with weight loss groups and wearables linking overall health with food choices. “For diabetics we could determine which ingredients are increasing blood sugar levels and help them avoid those ingredients,” he says.
One restriction on the app is that its restaurants are mostly chain stores. “It’s a challenge to get local restaurants; they’re not required to list ingredients,” Mehta says. “And mom-and-pop places and diners are challenging because their menus are changing all the time.”