Alumni Spotlight: Bon’App your way to healthy eating with Taylor Salinardi, PhD N’12 By Ashley Carter

What is Bon’App and what does the app do? How long has it been around?

 Launched about 6 months ago, Bon’App is a digital platform (on Android, iPhone, and a website) that provides simple nutrition guidance.  Most consumers are confused about the nutritional information on package labels, so Bon’App offers an intuitive application that they can rely on to find out what’s in their food.  We are setting a new standard for nutritional information in a simple language (Calories, sugar, salt, bad fat, fiber, and protein) to empower people, through personalized nutrition guidance, to achieve healthier eating habits.

Source: T. Salinardi

Source: T. Salinardi

 

How does Bon’App compare to the myriad other food and nutrition apps out there?

 I would consider Bon’App a “disruptive” solution in the marketplace in that it goes beyond simply providing a nutrition facts label, like most health and nutrition apps out there. It breaks down nutrition into a simple language.  One of the many unique features of Bon’App is the voice activated function, which allows users to simply say a food or menu item—for example, “grilled chicken”—and within seconds, it will show a list of branded or generic food items, as well as its calories, sugar, salt, bad fat (saturated and trans fat), fiber, and protein content.  Additionally, most nutrition apps only provide journal entry capability without filtering for personal medical restrictions, allergies, and food preferences. Bon’App creates personalized maps of food items that are fit for individual users.

By enhancing consumers’ nutrition knowledge, Bon’App helps users adhere to their dietary goals.  In addition to using simple language, the platform offers a powerful visual: a battery that depletes as you eat nutrients such as calories, bad fat, salt and sugar and changes color from green to yellow to red (Warning near 0%)! For protein and fiber, the battery starts at 0% and charges up as you consume your recommended goals for these nutrients throughout the day.

Source: T. Salinardi

Source: T. Salinardi

Is Bon’App geared towards a specific group of people, for example, those who are trying to lose weight? Or is it for people who want to be healthier in general? 

 Bon’App works well for anyone! It is so simple and intuitive that it can be used by all populations. The application is free to users and they can customize their battery goals to fit their various health needs and conditions. For example, if the user needs to reduce their caloric intake for weight loss, he/she can reset his/her ‘calorie’ battery with just a couple of clicks. Similarly, if one’s cardiologist recommends a lower sodium intake the user can customize his/her salt battery to fit his/her specific recommendations as well.

What is your role at Bon’App and what is the best part about your work there?

I am the director of Research & Data Analytics. I am spearheading the pilot studies that we will be carrying out to look at the effects of Bon’App on nutrition knowledge and eating behaviors. One pilot is in middle-school-aged children in Baton Rouge and the other is among associates in a large health insurance company in Boston.

Although my title is the director of Research & Data Analytics, I would say this role is probably only 20% of my time. The most exciting part about working for an early stage start-up company is that you have the opportunity to wear many different hats. I have been directly involved in product development, strategic planning for business development, developing our social media platforms, customer acquisition, and helping to raise a round of seed funding for the company.  I must say, I feel like I’m getting another degree in business as well – I am absolutely loving my experience at Bon’App!

Are there challenges to working within the ever-changing nutrition technology world?

 It can be very challenging. There are always new products coming to market so you have to know the competitive landscape really well so that you can understand the most effective ways to differentiate yourself.

Could you tell me a bit about your Friedman experience?

 I really enjoyed my experience at Friedman and felt that it prepared me with a superior level of expertise in nutrition. In particular, my dissertation work in dietary and behavioral interventions for weight loss and obesity prevention (in the Energy Metabolism Lab at the HNRCA) is directly applicable to what I am doing at Bon’App. It also prepared me for conducting research of the highest quality and gave me the ability to design, manage, and carry out interventions. Moreover, I think the mentorship I received from my advisors was invaluable.

How did Friedman help shape you and your career path?  Anything in particular about Friedman that is memorable or helped you figure out what you wanted to do after?

 The Friedman School provided me with an excellent foundation for nutrition as well as the opportunity to cultivate my skills to carry out sound scientific research.  Although I enjoy research, I knew that I wanted to do something creative and different with my doctoral degree. I have always been interested in entrepreneurship and innovation and wanted to find a way to marry my passion for nutrition with innovation in the business world.  When I met the CEO & Founder of Bon’App, Laurent Adamowicz, I knew that this opportunity was the perfect fit for me.

What advice do you have for Friedman students who are interested in the intersection of nutrition and technology and might be looking into a career in this area? 

I would tell students to really enjoy their experience at Friedman and to take advantage of all of the great resources and experiences the school has to offer.  There are many opportunities out there in nutrition technology. My advice would be to think about what aspect of nutrition and technology you might be interested in and then talk to as many people as possible in those positions – the power of networking could never be underestimated.  Also, don’t be afraid to be creative in how you might use your degree!

Ashley Carter is a second year Masters’ student in Nutrition Communication and is applying for Dietetic Internships to become a Registered Dietitian.  She is interested in simple ways to get people to eat more healthfully, and she hopes that Bon’App will be one part in the fight to get people to understand the health benefits (and detriments)

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