ShopWell raises $3.4M for app that offers shoppers healthier food alternatives

By Aditi Pai
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ShopWellSan Carlos-based ShopWell, which offers a nutrition app, raised $3.4 million in a round led by Finistere Ventures, with participation from Fairhaven Capital, Munich Venture Partners, S2G Ventures, and ATA Ventures. This brings the company's total funding to about $11.4 million.

The company has developed an app that suggests healthier options to users as they shop for food. The program scores foods from 0 to 100 based on how well they match the user's selected preferences or dietary issues.

Users can create shopping lists with foods they plan to purchase at the grocery store and ShopWell will suggesting similar products that have higher scores so that users can purchase a healthier alternative. People can enter foods into their lists by searching for them or scanning the packaging.

"We are at an inflection point," ShopWell CEO Elliott Grant said in a statement. "Today's health-conscious consumers want help making smart choices at the grocery store -- and the industry is paying attention. By listening to consumers and partnering with top retailers and food manufacturers, we aim to become the go-to personalized nutrition platform for today's mobile-savvy consumers. We need to work together to make it easier for people to eat well -- especially the millions of American shoppers and their families trying to adhere to special dietary restrictions, manage disease states, or avoid the consequences of allergens." 

The app has clocked more than 2 million downloads and more than 50 percent of ShopWell scan activity happens inside a grocery store. ShopWell reports that the app has been used inside more than 137,000 stores, which represent about 90 percent of US-based grocery chains and that many app users manage chronic health conditions or food allergies.

ShopWell's best known competitor is Fooducate, an app that has been in the market for about five years now. As its name indicates, Fooducate's core offering is also helping shoppers find healthy foods on store shelves, but it has also branched out into weight loss and general diet tracking over the years. Its business model is in-app purchase upgrades to unlock various diet-specific databases. It also generates advertising revenue.

A similar but slightly more medically-inclined app, called Scan Avert, has been around since 2009. Scan Avert has positioned itself mostly as a food shopping app that helps people avoid foods that may contain allergens or might interfere with a medication. Unlike ShopWell's, the Scan Avert app has carried a monthly fee since its inception. Scan Avert's iOS app hasn't been updated since 2010, according to the app store, while its Android app was last updated in 2013.

At the end of last year, an online service, called Crowdfooding, launched to match food-focused entrepreneurs with experienced investors. At the time, Crowdfooding CEO Alessio D’Antino told MobiHealthNews that the list of investors that were interested in nutrition-focused startups was small because investors don't have that much experience investing in nutrition startups, but as they gain more knowledge of the space, the list of investors will likely grow.

While nutrition-focused digital health companies make news less often than other digital health startups in the space, many companies are working on nutrition tracking -- from bigger corporations, like Google, which is testing nutrition tracking via photos, to startups like Lose It!, which just launched its offering in UK and Ireland today.