Getting personal: Berlin hacks personalised nutrition

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Hackathon champs Max (2nd left) & Kristin (3rd left) are joined by Nutrition Hub founders Lia Schmökel (far left) and Dr Simone Frey (far right) and mentors Dr Mariette Abrahams (2nd right) and Nard Clabbers (3rd right). The winners received a 3-month residence at Food Tech Campus for their data-savvy conscious shopping app prototype. All photos: AlbertoGranzotto.com, IG: @granzottophoto.
Hackathon champs Max (2nd left) & Kristin (3rd left) are joined by Nutrition Hub founders Lia Schmökel (far left) and Dr Simone Frey (far right) and mentors Dr Mariette Abrahams (2nd right) and Nard Clabbers (3rd right). The winners received a 3-month residence at Food Tech Campus for their data-savvy conscious shopping app prototype. All photos: AlbertoGranzotto.com, IG: @granzottophoto.
Berlin’s budding Nutrition Hub showed what can be achieved in rapid time at its recent Nutrition Hackathon, where teams had just two days to crunch their personalised nutrition ideas into practical and science-backed app and product prototypes.

The sold-out event at retailer Edeka’s Food Tech Campus​ split 30 German and European nutrition researchers and innovators into six teams with a ‘conscious consumption made easy’ app called Bevust emerging victorious after voting by attendees at the Final Pitch.

All teams were guided through a condensed 2-day version of the Google-created Design Sprint​ product development model by NO BS Innovation Studio​ founder Hany Rizk.

Reliable data sets

Winning idea Bevust turns retailer-held shopping data into user-friendly stats, trends and recommendations to guide better nutrition and sustainability choices such as carbohydrate and plastic consumption. The app’s creators reasoned retailers would be willing to share the data because they would gain shopper loyalty

By using an already existing and reliable data set Bevust solved one of the great challenges of the Hackathon – how to gather, calibrate and present a reliable nutrition data set that people can engage with and trust enough to pay for.

The likes of food diaries, some nutrition science sources and bar code scanning are potentially off-putting to consumers because they are considered unreliable and/or overly time consuming.

Hackers at the event expressed a near collective frustration that greater amounts of nutrition and supply chain data were not available via bar codes – something promised by emerging tech such as blockchain traceability.

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Grinovation: These grinning innovators developed the Science4me app that curated nutrition science and personal data to maximise health outcomes.

Other winning concepts included:

  • HappyPregnant – an app to guide nutrition choices for pregnant women, or women considering becoming pregnant. (2nd​)
  • An app to mesh food consumption data and nutrition science into actionable food choices called Science4Me. (3rd​)

Nutrition + technology = better food choices

The event kicked off with Nutrition Hub​co-founder Dr Simone K Frey telling the assembled food hackers the world “had entered a new era of nutrition” ​with the rise of social media, tech-driven solutions and the advance of nutrition science.

Dr Frey told NutraIngredients the Hackathon demonstrates how much potential merging nutrition and technology has to elevate personalised nutrition solutions – making them tangible in the places people make food choices; to change lives for the better.

“Take workplaces. How do you connect a personalised nutrition plan with what you eat at work? So that is connecting point-of-sale with your personal preferences and diagnostics – it’s about what you want to eat and finding access to it then measuring how well you are nourished and creating a feedback loop,” ​she said.

“If you look at the EU start-ups and the accelerators and incubators they are very focused on food. But the interesting part today is nutrition and technology. Food is something to nourish yourself but there is a much broader perspective with nutrition. That’s the potential we are all about at Nutrition Hub.”

Nutrition science: Out of its baby shoes?
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Personalised nutrition specialist & mentor Dr Mariette Abrahams: “Personalised nutrition can empower people to make choices that meet their actual needs. But it shouldn’t be patronising.”

Nutrition Hub, previously reported on here​, has grown impressively to 8000 or so mostly European members since its conception last year by Frey and Nouri botanical shots founder Lia Schmökel​.

One of its principal drivers is nurturing and promoting nutrition science, a field that is, according to Frey, “still in its baby shoes.”

“It only started getting serious in the 1970s really,” ​said Frey.

Hackathon mentor and Quina personalised nutrition consultancy founder, Dr Mariette Abrahams​,​ added that even at the product development level in large and small commercial settings, nutritionist input was often subdued.

“Nutritionists can be shy,”​ she said. “We need to confront that and raise the nutrition voice in the food industry and help change health outcomes.”

Frey said the nutrition world needs to raise its voice, but that attempts to engage with the German government had so far fallen on deaf ears.

“It is difficult when there is no dedicated ministry of nutrition. Nutrition still has a small lobbying voice in Germany and many other countries,” ​she said. “Of course I will try again. I am not giving up.”

EU backing

Other partnerships are proving more fruitful, such as the one with the EU-backed European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT) which has a major food and nutrition focus and acts as a seed incubator to a range of agri-food start-ups from its five European locations.

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EIT Food’s Dr Christoph Mandl says business is booming at the EU-backed start-up incubator.

EIT Food​ programme manager in business creation, Dr Christoph Mandl, gave a Hackathon presentation in which he said “there has never been a better time to do an agri-food start-up in Europe.”

Mandl told us Nutrition Hub was “doing an excellent job of creating awareness about entrepreneurship locally and through Europe, which is vital for young start-ups.”

Partnering up

Frey said industry had been “responding with open doors”​ to Nutrition Hub initiatives with some like Munich-based pharma and supplements business Protina and €6bn German dairy group DMK coming onboard as partners for its event.

“We are more and more interested in preventative health and nutrition so it’s great to see all the creativity here and we want to interact with that so we are very glad to be involved with Nutrition Hub and the Hackathon,” ​a spokesperson for Protina said.

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