Revolutionizing Workplace Wellness: The Power of Food Benefits with bitewell
More and more, people are coming to understand the benefits of eating a healthy diet. As a result, employers are taking note of how they can support their employees’ health via food benefits. Steadfast in the belief that the future of health is food, bitewell works directly with employers to provide food health benefits, reducing insurance premiums, and improving the health of users.
On the heels of an oversubscribed $4m seed round, co-led by the Lake Nona Fund, bitewell Co-Founder and CEO Sam Citro-Alexander shares her take on the intersection of nutrition and technology and her experience as an industry outsider building an industry-disrupting business.
1. How does bitewell enable people to make better decisions with regard to food choices?
Eating well is hard. For the 30 years I’ve been alive, nutrition programs, weight loss systems, dietitians, nutritionists, and my nosy neighbor Linda have all had different perspectives on what I should eat to stay healthy. If you ask my mom, low-fat chips are prime and Diet Coke has no negative health effects.
To help people make better food decisions, we first had to build a simple way to navigate the food landscape with your individual health needs in mind. We created a proprietary metric called a FoodHealth Score (FHS for short) that scores every food item around you on a scale from 0-10 based on its impact on your personal health.
What’s fascinating is that when we ran our FHS against US nutrition & health data (NHANES) for the past 20 years, we found that the average working-age American has an FHS of 5.0 (out of 10). Think of that as scoring a 50% on a test — we failed.
That failing 5.0 score corresponds to some pretty unhealthy metrics as it relates to blood pressure, cholesterol, hbA1C, and weight.
And with every 1-point increase in FHS, we can significantly improve each of those key health metrics.
2. What was the thought process behind the pivot from a B2C business model to a B2B model, and how did you know it was the right time to make this change? What advantages does a B2B model offer over a B2C model in the healthy food marketplace?
It came down to two things: our mission (to improve the world’s health through food) and pragmatism. We realized, after testing the B2C go-to-market, that launching B2C would be an expensive, uphill battle against nutrition giants who had come before. Instead of positioning ourselves as a “better nutrition app” with 100s of competitors in the market, we’ve decided to build a “food health benefit” — creating a new category in healthcare benefits. Positioning ourselves as a benefit also gives us more power to achieve our mission. If we all agree that food is medicine, then why isn’t food covered by health plans the same way that medicine is? That is a big, meaningful battle — one that we are excited to fight.
3. In what ways have you seen having employees who make healthier food decisions benefit these employers? Have you seen any measurable improvements in employee productivity, absenteeism, or overall health outcomes as a result of using bitewell’s services?
Absolutely. In the first 12 weeks on bitewell, we can improve a user’s FHS by ~1 point. A 1-point improvement in FHS correlates to a variety of health metric improvements. A few examples: increased HDL (good) cholesterol, lower systolic & diastolic blood pressure, and lower HbA1c. Those health metric improvements result in cost reductions for employers & health plans. We expect to see $175-$950 PMPY medical cost savings for bitewell users and ~3 fewer sick days per year.
4. What industries do you hope to infiltrate in the future? Are there any specific markets or niches that you think could benefit the most from your technology and services?
I would love to think beyond industries — my vision for the future is that bitewell is available to any person with diet-related disease risk on a health plan. Whether that health plan is employer-sponsored or government-sponsored.
5. What do you see as the most important factor that leads to innovation within the sports/health tech industry?
Industry outsiders build industry-disrupting businesses. I’m a healthcare industry outsider. So is my co-founder. We don’t have the burden of “unlearning” the norms of the industry — we can tackle problems with fresh eyes.
To learn more about bitewell and its mission, head to their website and check out their recent feature in Forbes.