As a busy nurse, our co-founder Louise, struggled to avoid dairy and eggs as instructed by her doctor. It was too time consuming and labelling was confusing. With millions of people avoiding specific ingredients for health or ethical purposes, LiberEat was created to make finding food they can eat easier.
Working in A&E, Louise saw first-hand the consequences of eating the wrong foods can have. Finding suitable foods, especially when going out, was always a struggle and with 33% of people with food allergies suffering a reaction when eating out, a solution was needed.
After trying lots of other solutions which didn’t meet her needs Louise teamed up with an old colleague, Barry. Barry’s family members have a range of complex dietary requirements, so he immediately saw the need to start LiberEat.
While many available apps would often focus on one ingredient and offer recommendations or advice, they decided to create an app that would make grocery shopping, eating out and finding recipes much easier by just showing the user exactly what they, friends and family members could have. With the help of nutrition and dietetics academics they developed the LiberEat app, which identifies several ingredients including the 14 major allergens in grocery products, restaurant menus and recipes as well as determining whether each option is Vegan or Vegetarian friendly.
Giving people as much choice as possible was key. We found that many people got stuck in the same routine of only having similar shopping baskets each week and were often reluctant to eat out with friends. Users can build as many profiles for friends and family members as they like, with nut allergies, dairy free, gluten-free, vegan preferences and more. Helping families and groups of friends who want to eat out together, this feature enables users to find and select restaurants that everyone can enjoy. As well as well as showing users exactly what they can have in each featured restaurant, the app allows users to scan barcodes on food packaging, giving an instant answer whether it is suitable for them. Users can also build shopping lists by searching over 100,000 products by category or keyword, with only suitable options shown, while a library of recipes can also be filtered by users’ dietary requirements, enabling people find new meal ideas they can cook at home.
Since its launch, the company has been awarded with more than £100K in grant funding, and has benifited from support from Barclays, Scottish Enterprise, Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Opportunity North East/BioCity Life Sciences Accelerator. LiberEat and has just been awarded a place on the Wayra AI/Blockchain accelerator starting later this month.
LiberEat has also gained support from the Anphalaxis Campaign and from NHS trusts including NHS Scotland who have exhibited the app at TedX Glasgow. There has also been much interest from food retailers, food manufacturers and restaurants brands who can see the benefits of becoming more accessible to people with dietary requirements and increase their offering in the Free-From market, which is currently worth £837m in the UK for grocery products alone and has grown by 133% over the last 5 years.
Currently LiberEat has more than 1500 venues on the app across the UK including; All Bar One, Miller & Carter and Pret A Manger, and is continuing to add more partner brands. By making their menus more accessible through our app, restaurants attract not just people with allergies or vegans or vegetarians, but also the friends and family they bring with them.
As usage of the app grows, data science projects are underway in partnership with The DataLab and Robert Gordon University to develop the data analytics with the aim to provide public health analytics to help improve patient outcomes for those with food allergies and intolerances.
Ultimately the goal is to make life easier for everyone with any dietary requirements and help reduce the number of incidents of food allergies causing harm.