Nutritionix, a leading provider of food data and nutrition information on restaurants, packaged foods and common foods, plans to launch a public version of its Nutrition Label Transcription API in 2014. Nutritionix currently provides a Nutritionix API which allows programmatic access to a database of more than 300,000 foods, nutrition data and UPC/barcodes. The Nutritionix API was one of the APIs used to create Mappetite, an app that won the "best usage of a 3scale powered API" prize at the Future of Food Hackathon + Forum in November.
The search engine on the Nutritionix website is powered by the Nutritionix API. Click on image for larger view.
Nutritionix uses proprietary data collection technology to build and maintain what the company calls "the largest and most accurate nutrition database on the planet." The Nutritionix database contains unique food items, including:
- Restaurants - 70,000-plus menu items, includes full nutritional data for more than 400 national restaurant chains.
- Grocery Stores - More than 220,000 grocery products and all the information found on a product label, including UPC.
- Common Foods - More than 8,000 USDA common food items such as raw vegetables, fruit, etc.
Nutritionix uses unique data collection methods. Data collection is not automated, it is performed by people. Nutritionix employs more than 30 grocery agents nationwide who use barcode scanning apps to take pictures of new store products, which are then added to the company's internal Nutrition Label Transcription API.
One of Nutritionix's 30 grocery agents "in action."
The Nutritionix grocery agents scour hundreds of grocery stores to discover new products and collect product data, adding an average of 1,000 new products every week. Grocery product data as well as restaurant and common foods data can be accessed programmatically using the Nutritionix API.
Interest in food-related APIs and applications is on the rise. At the time of this writing, the public Nutritionix API receives more than 1 million queries per month. Since the launch date of the API (January 1, 2013), more than 1,000 developers have signed up to use the API. The Nutritionix API is one of 100-plus Food APIs listed in the ProgrammableWeb API Directory and also one of the food industry APIs powered by 3scale. Guillaume Balas, CMO at 3scale, told ProgrammableWeb:
"APIs are a hot topic on the corporate IT agenda and one of the hottest marketplaces using APIs is definitely the food industry. Nutritionix, Edamam, Yummly, Wine.com, Curd Collective and Inapub are some of the food and restaurant APIs that 3scale powers."
The Future of Food Hackathon + Forum, held in San Francisco last month, was created to bring together food innovators, chefs, developers, entrepreneurs and others to collaborate on food ecosystem solutions focusing on key elements including food production, nutrition and fitness, technological innovation, and food scalability. "Food / nutrition hackathons are somewhat rare—only a few are held per year, but the interest in these type of hackathons is starting to grow," Matt Silverman, Nutritionix managing partner, told ProgrammableWeb.
Screenshot of the Mappetite app displayed on the demo server. Click on image for larger view.
The "best usage of a 3scale powered API" prize at the Future of Food Hackathon + Forum was awarded to Mappetite, an app that lets users define their specific dietary needs then shows meals that they can buy at nearby restaurants that satisfy the nutrition requirements. The Mappetite app was built using the Nutritionix API as well as the Yelp API. Louis DeMenthon, founder and CEO of Eat This Much, told ProgrammableWeb about the Mappetite app:
"Mappetite was a little thing we hacked together to show you the closest meals you could buy that precisely matched your desired nutrition targets. Say, for example, you're meticulously tracking your calorie intake and you need 500 calories to round out the rest of your day (with a specific amount of fats, carbs, and proteins), you would tell Mappetite your location and it tells you where to go and what foods to buy to satisfy your targets using Nutritionix's restaurant nutrition API."
The Mappetite app was a weekend project and won't be developed for the public. However, DeMenthon told ProgrammableWeb that the functionality of the Mappetite app will eventually be built into Eat This Much, an automatic diet planner that creates weekly meal plans based on users' nutrition targets, food preferences, schedule and budget. The app then sends the user meal plans every week along with a grocery list.
The Nutritionix API powers the search engine on the Nutritionix website which can be used to search for restaurant menu calories, nutrition and allergen information as well as food brand and common foods nutrition info. Many of the restaurant listings on the Nutritionix website—such as Boston Market, Chipotle, Just Salad, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy's—feature a nutrition calculator.
For more information about the Nutritionix platform and to view demos powered by the Nutritionix API, visit the Nutritionix website.
By Janet Wagner. Janet is a Data Journalist and Full Stack Developer based in Toledo, Ohio. Her focus revolves around APIs, open data, data visualization, and data-driven journalism. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.