- Nima, creator of connected food sensors that test for allergens, has launched an online tool that provides information on menu items free of peanuts and gluten at nearby chain restaurants, according to a company release.
- To create the platform, Nima tested hundreds of dishes from the top 100 restaurant chains for gluten-free and peanut-free items. Results from the chains were applied to locations around the world, the company stated, since chain restaurants often share the same menu, ingredients and food preparations across locations. The resulting data map includes more than 250,000 restaurant locations and more than 3 million Nima-tested dishes.
- Diners can enter their location on Nima's website to generate a detailed list of are restaurants that sell allergen-free food. "Nima is not designed to replace any of the precautions people with food allergies or sensitivities are already taking at mealtime," Nima CEO and co-founder Shireen Yates said in a statement. "Our program is designed to provide one additional data point that when someone does a search, they will get Nima-tested results, regardless of where they are located."
Consumer demand for transparency has exploded throughout the last few years, driving calorie count disclosure on restaurant menus, use of local ingredients and inclusion of supplier practices in brand marketing. And while companies like Chipotle have extended that transparency to diets, making it easier for diners to find meals that are keto, paleo and Whole30-compliant, there has been less focus on improving allergen disclosure.
Nima's new online platform and data map fill a gap here, and could benefit both consumers and restaurants. Though only 2% of American adults and 5% of infants and young children suffer from food allergies, according to the FDA, clear and consistent disclosure of allergens could help brands strengthen brand loyalty and attract new customers. This would also be attractive to consumers who don't have an allergy but wish to avoid certain ingredients out of preference, such as gluten.
"The reason for testing chain restaurants was to offer individuals dining options regardless of where they are in the world," Nima's executive team wrote to Restaurant Dive in an email.
Nima's data map also gives consumers quick peace of mind regarding what's in their food without having to test their meals themselves. At $279, Nima’s starter kit isn’t cheap, and replacement packs of 12 capsules retail for $60. The new platform also is free for consumers.
Still, the company has encouraged restaurants to use the technology in their kitchens to spot check their meals and ensure items that are labeled allergy-free are truly safe for certain consumers to eat. Employees can simply insert a small piece of food into the portable sensor to get results, which appear in about three minutes. If the food is safe, a digital smile emoticon appears on the device.
Though Nima's chain-level data was conducted internally, the company told Restaurant Dive that individuals will still be able to leave reviews of their tests at various eateries on the platform.
If Nima's stamp of approval eventually becomes a standard for consumers with allergens — and an attractive badge for major restaurants — it could drive further menu innovations for consumers with diet limitations. A Montreal restaurant chain called Zero8, for example, is completely free of the eight most common food allergens: gluten, dairy, eggs, shellfish, soy, sesame, nuts and peanuts.