Sticking to a diet — or avoiding an allergen — is hard enough without having to worry about potentially hidden ingredients in grocery products. Does that jerky have soy in it, or do those potato chips actually contain dairy?
One startup is trying to make grocery shopping more transparent and personalized. Tastermonial is a new startup based in the Bay Area which offers a link between personalized nutrition services and actual food brands. Users can download the Tastermonial app and use it to scan products on grocery shelves. The app then extracts nutritional data and gives viewers a readout of the item, noting whether or not it would be a good fit for them to eat, based off of their pre-saved dietary profile. If it’s not, Tastermonial will recommend other, better-suited grocery products available via delivery through one of their retail partners.
Founded in July 2019 by Bude Piccin, the startup launched a beta version of its app in January 2020 and currently has about 200 users. Thus far Tastermonial’s database includes over 400,000 SKUs, including everything from CPGs to frozen and refrigerated foods. Piccin said that they pull nutritional data from public databases.
On a recent phone call, Piccin told me that the app can only scan items and give both a general evaluation (good choice for many diets) and a personal evaluation (not suitable for you based on your profile). They plan to roll out the ability to purchase through retail partners later this year, starting with Piccin’s former employer, Amazon.
Thus far, users have to input their own dietary preferences and any food allergens, however, Tastermonial plans to let users link its app to microbiome- or DNA-driven food personalization services to automatically upload their nutrition profile. The company is already in talks with DAYTWO, a personalized nutrition company which recommends recipes to individuals based on their microbiome.
Tastermonial’s app is free to use. The company plans to make money by adding a small fee (5 to 10 percent) onto each sale through their retail partners. There’s also a SaaS play. Piccin said that Tastermonial will partner with personalized nutrition services, like DAYTWO, to provide the ingredient layer to those recipe recommendations. She explained that Tastermonial’s database could help users select the most health-appropriate foods for their suggested meals — all of which could be delivered to their door.
Since the company is so early-stage, it’s hard to predict if it’ll be able to follow through on its plans to become the go-to interface for grocery shopping based on your nutrition. But Tastermonial is tapping into a trend that, like Hansel, is so hot right now: personalization. (So hot, in fact, that we had a whole conference dedicated to personalization a few weeks ago in NYC.)
In addition to Tastermonial, there are several other companies racing to bring personalization to the grocery store. Pinto (formerly Sage Project) and DNA Nudge are two startups that pull from individuals’ nutrition profiles to help them decide which retail products are best suited to their needs. According to Piccin, Tastermonial’s differentiator is its ability to connect users with alternative products that are better for them, if the grocery options don’t cut it. “We’re connecting to that practical side,” she told me.
My question is whether or not consumers will actually take that extra step. Will people really create an entire online grocery order for one or two items, pay a premium for delivery, and wait for it to show up at their door?
Tastermonial is betting on it. Considering that 81 percent of consumers never order groceries online, that’s a risky bet, which is why I think that Tastermonial’s SaaS play has more potential than the app itself. As personalized nutrition services become more popular, more and more people will be looking for ways to easily shop for the best ingredients for their individual needs. If it becomes part of the personalized nutrition services themselves, Tastermonial could help make the process just a little bit easier.