In the early days of Nutracheck, I was demonstrating how it worked to a lady. I asked her what she’d had for lunch, ‘Fresh oysters’ she replied. Not quite what I was expecting and not the most common of lunches, but I typed it in, held my breath and voila! The result came back – 12 oysters without shell, 78 calories!
Recently we just topped 200,000 products in the Nutracheck food database – we’ve come a long way from the 30,000 products we started out with 11 years ago.
Back to the beginning
When the Nutracheck website and mobile app launched on 21st February 2005, it’s worth mentioning that the iPhone and App Store didn’t exist.
Back in the day, the Nutracheck ‘app’ took the form of a Java program that you downloaded and installed on your phone. You could
perform a manual sync with the website to update your food diary (if anyone remembers it let me know!). Our original idea was always to scan a food barcode with your phone and display its nutritional breakdown. But mobile phone technology had only just progressed to colour screens, and the camera function was nowhere near good enough to read a barcode.
A barcode obsession!
Still sticking with the barcode plan, our very first Nutracheck mobile app used what we called ‘Barcode Quick Search’ technology. You could type in the last 4 digits of a barcode and a shortlist of products was returned. This was good, but not quite the vision. It was only when the iPhone came along in 2007 with superior camera technology, that our barcode scanning Nutracheck App finally became a reality. That said, a calorie tracker is only as good as the food database it uses, so back to the database story. We launched with 30,000 products and have been adding to it every since.
Quality not quantity
Nutracheck was initially created for UK customers, so we focused 100% on UK foods brands and supermarkets. We’ve always managed our database ourselves as we believe it’s the best way to maintain the quality. Some apps claim to have huge databases, but it’s important to consider quality over quantity. Is it all UK food or products worldwide? Are there duplicate entries for the same item? (which can occur if data is added by users) Multiple results can be more of a hindrance than help, especially if the calorie data varies. Sometimes people confuse kilojoules for kilocalories or the serving size is inaccurate or not the size you need. If data has been incompletely added, it’s hard to know whether a zero means the food doesn’t contain that nutrient or the data was just missed. So for all the reasons above, we believe that managing the data is the best way to ensure a high quality.
Photos for speed
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. When you’re in a hurry, it’s much quicker to find a product with a photo than scrolling through a list of descriptions. So that’s why we invest time in photographing foods, from Pret to McDonalds and KFC – it makes finding what you’re looking for a little bit easier.
Going an extra step
Wherever possible we also try to show realistic serving sizes. All our servings are UK weights and measures (no cups), but on occasions manufacturers will give data ‘per 100g’ so we try to show the portion size you are mostly likely to eat. Sometimes you want a serving size not listed, so the ‘add weight’ option gives you the flexibility to easily customise your own.
Can’t find a food?
Tell us! One of the team will do their best to track down the information for you. People sometimes ask why Nutracheck isn’t free. If it was, we wouldn’t be able to invest the time and effort we do on maintaining the quality of data – as well as providing other services such as nutritional, technical and general support for members. We hope that members find the extra attention to detail improves their experience of using Nutracheck.
Nutracheck started out as a tool to help people lose weight. We kept it simple by just tracking calories and fat. Members then asked us to help with other goals like weight gain and weight maintenance – so we added extra options.
Over the years we’ve been running Nutracheck, we’ve seen a growing interest among the general public in food, nutrition and health. People are much more knowledgeable and want to know what’s in the food they’re eating. Increasingly we’re being asked to track more nutrients.
You asked and we’ve listened! Coming soon, we’ll be extending the nutrients you can track. You’ll soon be able to delve under the label and see how much protein, carbs, sugar, saturated fat and salt you’re eating too. Nutracheck will still be the same easy to use calorie tracker you know, just with a few more options!