For most of us, life’s small challenges are often brushed off and forgotten. But some annoyances lead to innovative solutions that make us wonder why no one had thought of it before.
While at a friend’s wedding, gluten intolerant Shireen Yates realized she had forgotten her gluten-free snack pack, so she asked a waitress if the risotto ball appetizers were gluten-free. The waitress asked, “How allergic are you?” This was a response Shireen heard one too many times. She wished there was a quick way to test her food on the spot.
Shireen is now the CEO and co-founder of the San Francisco startup, Nima Labs — a company that makes connected food sensors to bring peace of mind to meal time.
The company’s flagship product, Nima, is the first pocket-size sensor for gluten. It’s fast, easy to use, and its portability makes it convenient to test food anytime you’re out and about. Nima’s sensor uses chemistry to detect a protein in food at the parts per million level. It can test foods ranging from soups and sauces to fried items and baked goods. Just take a tiny sample of food, put it in a capsule, and put the capsule in Nima.
An added benefit, Nima comes with a companion iOS app. When users test foods at restaurants, the results are added to the community knowledge base, allowing others to know — at a glance — which foods on the menu are gluten free.
Complex Product Development Challenges
Developing the food sensor wasn’t an easy task.
Shireen says the challenge in creating Nima was finding a way to combine chemistry, mechanical and electrical engineering in a pint-sized package. Adding another layer of difficulty, typical gluten test kits take as long as 20 minutes to produce a result. Waiting that long at a restaurant would be downright inconvenient. The team had to find a way to shorten the wait, and that they did. Amazingly, Nima yields results in just three minutes.
“We had the best team who believed it could be done, and they didn’t give up,” Shireen said.
Products in Progress
The Nima Labs team is now developing sensors for other proteins. A portable peanut tester is planned for release toward the end of 2017. As well, milk and tree nuts sensors are planned for release in 2018. But detecting food allergens isn’t the only use for food sensors.
“After milk and tree nuts sensors, we’re looking at sugar, salt, fat and other nutrients and ingredients that people care about,” Shireen said. “Ultimately, we want to have a sensor for anything you care about, giving you better data about how you’re fueling your body.”
Growth in Partnership
DCL Logistics is proud to have Nima Labs on its roster of innovative clients. Shireen says DCL is playing a key role in helping Nima Labs scale and ship as the business expands to additional products and multiple sales channels.
“We wanted to work with an operation that understands the trials and tribulations of the typical consumer technology startup, and we felt as though DCL has the best balance of flexibility and scale. We are delighted to be in partnership with them and are looking forward to scaling our business,” says Shireen.
Nima is currently available online at NimaSensor.com. In the meantime, Nima Labs looks to distribute its products through other e-commerce platforms, as well as retail outlets, in the near future.