Dublin firm makes a meal out of an idea

Innovative software which can be used to analyse the nutritional composition of food and devise healthy meal plans is now being sold in 140 countries by Dublin startup Nutritics.

Company co-founder and chief executive Damian O’Kelly has ambitious plans for a solution which he says Nutritics is the first web-based product of its type and has the one with the largest food database, containing details of the nutritional makeup of 250,000 foodstuffs.

Shortlisted for the Technology Ireland Awards in the emerging category, Nutritics currently sells its software to nutrition specialists, sports organisations, hospitals, food service

companies, food manufacturers, and research organisations.

In 2018 it plans to launch a smartphone app and start providing its service directly to consumers for the first time.

Employing 17, it is in the process of recruiting an additional four staff in Australia, where it recently participated in an Enterprise Ireland trade mission, and which is a key target market.

Nutritics started by selling to the UK and Ireland but has, since 2015, focused on growing new markets — it is now developing sales in the US, the Middle East, and Australia.

Mr O’Kelly says the growth strategy has involved establishing sales partnerships and that Nutritics now has a partner network with 50 staff.

Mr O’Kelly came up with the idea for the product while studying for a master’s degree in nutrition in 2012. He set to work on building up the database and enlisted his brother, Ciaran O’Kelly, a web designer — now

Nutritics’ chief technology officer — to provide the technology.

Working on it in their spare time, they developed a basic version and set up a website which began attracting the attention of nutrition professionals.

To take it to the next stage, they enrolled in an accelerator programme, before incorporating Nutritics in early 2013, using their own funding and reinvesting the proceeds from online sales to grow the company.

Selecting universities as their first target market, they opted for an old-fashioned approach.

“We started by sending out letters — we decided that letters were more tangible than emails and would make more of an impact,” says Mr O’Kelly.

Midway through the year, Oxford Brookes University became a customer. When at the end of they year, they signed up the English Institute of Sport, which looks after the British Olympic team, they knew that Nutritics was going places. Within two years, it had a staff of eight and 750 customers.

“To start with, most of our customers were nutritional professionals who signed up online but we also had sales to 30 universities,” says Mr O’Kelly.

He says the growth came on foot of innovating and responding to the market and continually increasing the database with information from national food databases and manufacturers.

“Our technology is more user friendly than traditional software and uses an evidence-based approach. The system is web-based and highly functional; in addition to analysing nutrition, it also generates meal plans and offers a comprehensive system for food costing and menu management in the food service industry.”

A High Potential Start up client of Enterprise Ireland in 2015, it participated in a trade mission to the Middle East last year and signed the Dubai health authority as its first client there.

Since 2016, Nutritics software has been available in nine languages including Arabic and Hebrew. Mr O’Kelly says that Nutritics clients now include high-profile sporting organisations such as English Rugby as well as eight Premier League football teams, in addition to globally recognized brands such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Radisson Hotels.

“We also sell to over 100 hospitals and to 50 universities where 20,000 students are now using the software,’’ he says.

Mr O’Kelly believes the greatest potential for future growth is in the food sector, where growth is primarily being driven by the requirement by both food manufacturers and food-service companies to comply with regulations requiring them to provide information about allergens and nutrition.

For 2018, he says the plan is to continue to double sales as it has been doing for the last four years and to broaden the company footprint in the US and Australia.


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