Julia Olayanju wasn’t always into the food scene. Armed with a PhD she focused on anti-cancer chemistry — not flavorful tastes.
But that all changed when her elderly parent depended on her. Food variety, under a restricted diet regiment, was hard to come by. So she did what any enterprising entrepreneur would do and founded a company. GrubEasy uses machine learning to conjure recipes based off your dietary restrictions. According to Olayanju, it “learns what you like.”
Foodies that we are (thanks Ribalta and BeeHex), Grit Daily took a deeper dive into Olayanju’s cookbook. We like what we see.
- You have your own entrepreneurial background. Share that.
I was raised by two entrepreneurs, both of my parents ran successful businesses and so did my grandparents. Even though I grew up watching so many people I look up to start and grow successful businesses, starting a company never crossed my mind growing up.
My first entrepreneurial experience started after graduating from college, I created a blog to share my thoughts on a subject I was passionate about, I really did not even think much of it. However, it gained traction and businesses started contacting me to promote their business on the platform. That exposed me to entrepreneurship on a personal level but the motivation to actually go all the way to start a company did not come until several years later.
About six years ago, I was taking care of my late father who was on a restricted diet and was always looking for something nourishing and tasty that I could make for him. Making meals that worked for his diet was crucial but it was also important to make something he could really enjoy. I found myself spending a lot of time online searching, it was almost like looking for a needle in a haystack. That was my first exposure to the problems we are focused on solving now. The passion for what I do now was born out of a pain I felt then. My entrepreneurial journey was born out of an experience I had which opened my eyes to the problem millions of people are experiencing everyday.
- You have a PhD, how does that play a role in what you do today?
My education gives me a unique perspective on the problem we are solving. My research focused on understanding the anti-cancer properties of a compound extracted from food. This first hand exposure to how the cancer cells respond to this compound totally changed the way I look at food.
Beyond the knowledge acquired and the experiences I have had, the biggest part of my educational training is the way I think. The biggest take away from any PhD education is the ability to identify a problem and ask the right set of questions to solve the problem. By the
time you complete a doctoral training you have highly developed problem solving and critical thinking skills, this comes to play in everything you do. While there are so many ways to approach the quest to help people live healthier lives through nutrition, we have chosen to focus on building a technology that makes it 10 times more efficient to find information needed to create great dining experiences at home. This information is not limited to recipes but creates a unique opportunity for food and beverage brands to educate their consumers about their products.
- What is GrubEasy?
GrubEasy.io is an intelligent recipe and food products recommendation engine that creates opportunities for millions of home cooks to connect and authentically engage with food brands. The platform employs machine learning to understand people’s food preferences and suggest recipes and products based on those preferences.
A simple case study is : A busy mom spends a typical Saturday morning looking for recipes, shopping for groceries and planning for the week ahead. The time spent is significantly increased if someone in the family has specific food preferences. GrubEasy learns the mom’s food preferences and suggests recipes and food products matching those preferences to her, eliminating the need to search. Products found on the platform can be purchased right away through third party partners.
- What’s behind the name?
The name captures our goal of making it easier for people to make nourishing meals at home. It underscores our commitment to making it more convenient for home cooks to easily find the information needed to create great dining experiences time and again.
- Which conventional wisdom about food is most wrong?
I try to stay away from classifying a set of information as wrong because based on what we know now it may seem wrong. A few years from now, more discoveries can be made that sheds more light on the subject, then we find out that there is an element of truth to the information we discarded in prior years. Knowledge is not absolute, there is so much we know now, but there is a lot more we are in the dark about.
- American food tastes changing? Awareness? How so?
Yes, consumer food preferences are changing and this has led to significant changes in the food industry. Technological advancement in the last decade has bought information to the fingertips of the average consumer so the level of awareness is higher. Research studies conducted by Statistica in 2016 reported that 72% of people in US believe that the way they eat is important to their health. This shift in how people think about food has paved way for new food and beverage companies targeting the health conscious consumer.
This awareness can only increase as more consumers demand transparency from the food industry. Research conducted by Label Insights showed that 97% of consumers are influenced in their purchase decisions by the availability of detailed information about the food product beyond the labels. The same group reported that 37% of consumers will switch brands in favor of brands that are more transparent about how their products are made (sample size for the study was 1500 consumers).
Food companies need to take these changes in consumer preferences and level of awareness very seriously. Any food or beverage brand that wants to stay relevant and grow needs to pay attention to the need to educate consumers about their products. GrubEasy is an excellent platform for food brands to engage with their target customers and provide updates when needed.