Four Técnico alumni created MyNutriScan, an app that aims to help users to make healthy decisions in the supermarket, in a quick, simple and intuitive way. The app cross-check users’ requirements (allergies, illnesses and intolerances) and nutritional goals with the food product’s information and provide personalized feedback. “The app helps users to choose the food products that are most appropriate to their needs. It’s like having a nutritionist in your pocket”, says Nuno Calejo, Técnico alumnus and one of the creators of MyNutriScan.
To this end, the users only need to define their plan – goals, food restrictions, etc.- and when scanning the product’s barcode, they receive personalized feedback about the product. “For example, a user who is allergic to wheat will be alerted to the presence of wheat in the products, while a person who has hypertension will receive warnings regarding salt and saturated fat. An intelligent nutritional algorithm was developed that compares the nutritional information of the product with the nutritional goals defined by the user”, explains the Técnico alumnus.
Rafaela Saraiva, Nuno Ferreira and Pedro Medeiros are the other Técnico alumni who created the app. The idea behind MyNutriScan was born during “Hack for Good”, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation‘s hackathon, where they were challenged to find the best technology solutions to tackle problems associated with population ageing. “We already knew each other from JUNITEC [Junior Enterprises at Instituto Superior Técnico] and we accepted the challenge of developing a project to help the elderly make healthy food choices at the supermarket”, recalls Nuno Ferreira.
“In view of the notorious difficulty of elderly people in choosing food products, whether due to the difficulty in reading the labels and understanding the information, or due to the numerous dietary restrictions”, the team had no doubts that there was an opportunity to put technology at the service of society. After the hackathon, the team realised that these problems “are common to all age groups and we decided to broaden our target audience and direct the application to any consumer, regardless of age – which continues to be our focus to this day”, recalls Nuno Ferreira.
According to IPAM, 40% of the Portuguese do not understand the basic nutritional information that allows them to make healthier choices. “This difficulty in reading food labels, whether due to lack of time or knowledge, leads to poor nutrition”, highlights Rafaela Saraiva. “This problem is further aggravated by the growing number of people with food restrictions, which implies extra care when choosing food products”, stresses the Técnico alumna.
“We believe that the first step to change eating habits starts when choosing food at the supermarket”, the team members say. According to Nuno Calejo, what differentiates MyNutriScan from the other apps is the “personalized feedback”.
The app was launched last May, and is available for Android and iOS systems. The alumni could not be more satisfied with the users’ feedback. “Despite the relatively low number of users, the feedback we had from the first users was of satisfaction and surprise, for being the first solution of this kind in the national market”, shares Nuno Calejo. “The number of current users is still much lower than our goals and, despite the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, we have defined a marketing strategy to be able to make our solution known to a large number of users”, adds the alumnus.
“We are developing new features that we believe will greatly enrich the app, such as recommending alternative products when it is not suitable for the user, thus making the app more versatile”, says Rafaela Saraiva. “From a more strategic perspective, we aim to hire a nutritionist and establish partnerships with entities such as producers, supermarkets, associations, among others. In the long term, our ambition is to create an ecosystem that brings together the main players in the food industry to help the Portuguese to have a healthier diet”, shares the alumna.
The team members reconcile this project with a full-time job. “We are forced to take up both projects at the same time, so we must manage our time very well in order to meet the deadlines and the goals we have set ourselves”, stresses Pedro Medeiros. “The fact that we are 4 people with different availability and responsible for different areas gives us some flexibility”, he adds.