Zipongo, a digital nutrition platform just raised $18 million to accelerate its mission to improve health outcomes through personalized dietary recommendations. Working with employers and health plans, Zipongo’s platform consists of a number of different apps designed to change people’s behavior around nutrition by changing their environment. This includes apps that provide recipes, shopping lists, restaurant recommendations or corporate food menu recommendations. The recommendations are generated algorithmically based on data the app has collected on the person, such as their current eating habits, food preferences and biometric data. There is also a plan to collect new data in the future around genetics and other ‘omics’ like an individual’s microbiome in order to gain more specificity and personalization.
Zipongo plans to use this funding to go more deeply into the healthcare space, moving beyond the initial wellness focus toward obesity and diabetes prevention. There are plans to address other conditions as well, including IBD and cancer, using what CEO Jason Langheier calls “food as medicine”.
“The way we think of the vertical we’ve opened up is food benefits management […] it’s like pharmacy benefit management. We are trying to basically take that to the next level because the most powerful generic drug is personalized food. It’s more cost effective, less side effects, and multiple RCTs have shown it works better for multiple conditions. So we’re really codifying that space.”
Langheier’s goal is to legitimize this movement, using head-to-head studies. He wants to get data that supports the notion that “nutrition, if done right, works better than or equal to drugs”. He claims that “it’s not this pill vs. this carrot […] its this personalized diet you’re adhering to versus this pill“.
Zipongo claims that it is making an impact. Those corporate participants who’ve used the platform have seen the following benefits:
- 75% have improved eating habits
- 91% increased vegetable intake
- 135% increased fruit intake
- 91% increased water intake
- 34% increased fiber intake
- Significant decreases in blood pressure and waist size
Why This Matters:
As systemic shifts in healthcare systems move priorities toward prevention, cost savings and overall health, pharma companies should be keeping an eye on the emerging customer operating system for nutrition and overall health management. Startups like Zipongo are creating enterprise-wide initiatives that help manage costs and improve health through information and incentive based programs. The relationships that emerge could be very useful for pharma brands – helping increase adherence to nutritional plans that increase the odds of success for a particular therapy.
Brands could also learn from the approach that Zipongo is taking and create their own unique programs that empower individuals to adhere to a nutritional program that increases their odds of successful treatment with chronic diseases like diabetes. This would probably exist at the disease-state level rather than an individual brand level.
If Zipongo’s vision for ‘Food Benefits Management’ is realized, employees will increasingly take more active and engaged roles in managing their nutritional health. This could pay huge dividends in terms of cost savings and an increased ability to understand, target and measure the effectiveness of specific nutritional initiatives for at risk populations.
Imagine leveraging the ‘free food’ companies are providing their employees at places like Google and Facebook. What if those free meals were personally tailored to a custom nutritional plan based on preferences and multiple health indicators?
Will the prescription of the future be an algorithmically generated nutritional plan that is atomically baked into your Zipongo dietary platform? Looks like Langheier and his team have a full plate over the next few years.