Written by Stuart Foxman
Consumers are becoming increasingly mindful of what they eat. For foodservice companies, MenuSano (menusano.com) is making it easier to track and report what’s in each item. The Toronto tech company calculates the nutritional value of any recipes or dishes, in a quicker and more cost-effective way than traditional means.
“We eliminate the need to send food to a lab to analyze,” says founder Sonia Couto.
Instead, MenuSano built an online tool that uses government-regulated nutritional databases (Canadian, American and U.K.), which include over 250,000 food items.
Users enter quantities and ingredients, and MenuSano breaks it down. Results that might otherwise have taken a month to receive can be retrieved in minutes.
Once that’s done, MenuSano creates an easy-to-understand nutrition facts label for download and printing. Clients can use that information on their products, websites or menus.
MenuSano users include restaurants, bakeries, manufacturers, hospitals, schools, nutritionists and dietitians.
There are two ways to calculate the nutrition facts of a meal. One is a chemical analysis in a lab. This requires multiple samples, averaged out to arrive at the nutritional content. That can cost $800-$1,200 an item. Extrapolate that by a full menu, and add in the need to try new recipes, and the expense can be major.
The other type of testing is theoretical analysis, relying on data from ingredients that have already been chemically tested. That’s just as accurate as an original lab analysis approach. The government-sourced data, while voluminous, is also what Couto calls “messy”.
“We brought in machine learning and AI to organize the data,” she says.
MenuSano scales the nutrient values in the databases to match the amounts used in any given product. Because MenuSano only had to build its system once and maintain it, that lowers the cost to clients.
While MenuSano offers one-time services, it also has appetizing deals for yearly services: $320 for a certain number of analyses, $504 for a higher number, and $799 for unlimited analyses.
The lower costs, and the speed of the nutritional value calculations, encourage users to experiment with recipes to make them healthier. One bakery client talked about the ease of adjusting recipes, and having more control to manage nutritional content. They said MenuSano inspires them to create new menu items.
Couto doesn’t come from the food industry but from the tech world, where she has won several industry awards for her leadership in software development.
When MenuSano launched in 2017, Couto was a director (and still is) at Konverge, a Toronto company that builds customer software applications for clients. Couto saw a market opportunity, and Konverge acted as MenuSano’s accelerator.
The word sano, Spanish for healthy, speaks to the priorities of Couto and MenuSano.
“We are what we eat,” says Couto. “Health is a big part of my life. I’m a breast cancer survivor, so eating healthy and making healthy choices is something I’m conscious about every day.”
Photo credit: Glenn Lowson