Do you have food allergies or sensitivities?
Are you tired of having to quiz wait staff about the ingredients in the food only to suffer an allergic reaction after they have confirmed the food contained none of what you clearly indicated you were allergic to?
Are you tired of being stuck with boring safe food options on account of your food allergies and sensitivities?
If you answered yes to any one of the above, Nima was designed with you in mind.
Nima is a startup that was founded in 2013 under the name GlutenTech with the aim of creating a portable gluten sensor. The company was co-founded by CEO Shireen Yates and Chief Product Officer Scott Sundvor. The two met in MIT in 2013.
The idea came to Yates after she attended a friends wedding and was treated to less than mouth-watering food options on account of her allergies. Yates is allergic to gluten, soy, dairy and egg.
She worked with Sundvor, a mechanical engineer and product designer, to bring the idea to life. It helped that he had dietary issues of his own. Sundvor avoids gluten as he suffers from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Gluten is considered a ‘trigger’ food for people with IBD (both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.)
Focusing on gluten sensitivities, they spent one-year conducting market research. Their goal was to determine whether consumers with allergies to gluten would be interested in a portable gluten sensor that would alert them to the presence of gluten in any food they wanted to eat. Survey data and market research and confirmed that they had hit a nerve so to speak.
Their proof of concept won the audience choice award at the MIT $100K Accelerate competition. This prompted them to move to the Bay Area to launch the business and raise additional funds. They managed to secure an A-round of $10 million and two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from National Institutes of Health (NIH).
How the Gluten Sensor Works
The gluten testing kit includes one Nima sensor device, three single-use test capsules, a charging cable and a carrying pouch.
Users put a sample of food into a disposable capsule, screw on the cap, place the capsule into the device, then wait about two minutes.
The sensor will then either display a smiling face if the sample meets the less than 20 ppm standard the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set for gluten-free labeling of packaged food. If it doesn’t, you will see a frowning face.
A free Nima app for smartphones has also been created to allow users to share their findings and search for other users’ reported results. This helps users identify discover new restaurants and try new “safe” foods.
Buying the Gluten Sensor
There are currently two types of gluten sensors available for purchase. 1st Generation and 2nd Generation.
The 1st Generation is currently discounted at $229 (original price is $279) and comes with three test capsules and is available to be shipped immediately. The 2nd Generation retails for $289 and comes with twelve test capsules. It ships in four to six weeks.
The sensor alone retails for $229. Capsules alone retail for $72 for a pack of 12. If you sign up for automatic capsule refills the price drops to $59. With automatic refills, you can choose to receive one 12-pack every other month or every month or 2 12-packs every month.
Gluten sensor users can also sign up for a premium membership plan for $9.99 a month (minimum 6-month commitment required). Membership entitles you exclusive Nima-tested restaurant and packaged food reports, gluten-free partner discounts and offers, a free 12-pack of gluten test capsules every six months as well as discounted pricing on additional capsule packs.
In about sixty days, Nima is getting ready to launch a Peanut Sensor. It will look and work in the same way the Gluten Sensor does.The peanut sensor is being designed to detect 20 parts per million (ppm) of peanut protein or more at 99 percent accuracy. You can preorder one for $229 ($289 retail price).
Given the ever-growing popularity of the Gluten Sensor, the Peanut Sensor is set to be a hit as well.