Cereal has become, in just over a century, the quintessential American breakfast. Tens of millions of people start their day with a bowl of flakes, puffs, or crisps poured from a cardboard box .
There are over 1000 different cold cereal products one can choose from, and any given supermarket dedicates an entire aisle to these. Last year, Americans bought over Ten Billion dollars worth of breakfast cereal. This is a big business, with lots at stake for manufacturers, big and small, who fight for every sliver of market share.
Let’s remind ourselves that cereal is not the only option for breakfast. Whole wheat toast, banana, yogurt, cheese, fruit salad, a glass of milk, and eggs are a great start to a day, and don’t require much effort. For many households, though, cereal is a morning tradition not easily broken. But can it be nutritionally improved?
As consumers are becoming more educated about health and nutrition, the cereal category is in flux, with each brand trying to convince us that its line of products is the nutritional Olympus. Despite small improvements here and there, most of the achievements are in marketing claims. Shoppers are now more confused than ever – with an overload of conflicting information – and no true means to decipher it all to make a good decision.
Today, we are happy to announce CerealScan™, an iPhone application that will help you choose a better, more nutritious breakfast cereal at the supermarket.
It’s dead simple to use: You launch the CerealScan application on your iPhone. It automatically scans a cereal box’s barcode (UPC). You then see a product dashboard with concise, graphic information that helps you decide in 3 seconds if the cereal is healthy enough for you. If not, CerealScan shows 5 better choices.
Here is an example (see image). The scanned cereal scores only 2 out of 5. It is high in sugar and medium in sodium. It contains trans fats and controversial artificial colorings. Not good. Swipe your finger across the alternatives to view all 5 better options. Tap on an alternative’s image to see its nutrition dashboard.
How it works: We’ve culled over 2000 cereal boxes into the CerealScan database. The analysis and recommendations are fully automated. They are modeled on answering a simple question – “What would a dietitian recommend if she was standing there with you at the cereal aisle?” The implementation of that answer is by no means trivial. Thankfully a dedicated group of dietitians and programmers at Fooducate have been working on this project for quite some time. I think they’ve done a great job.
What to do at the supermarket:
When it comes to cereal, the basics we’ve been writing about for the past 18 months have not changed. More fiber, Less sugar. No artificial colors and funny preservatives.
Now you have another option – you don’t need to remember anything, just bring your iPhone along with you to the supermarket and use CerealScan.
Try it out, we’d love to hear how CerealScan has helped you make a better choice. Comment below or email us: cerealscan at fooducate dot com.