Can you have your cake and eat it too – or just a slice? Doris Prodanovic talks to Be Fit Food CEO Kate Save and myDNA co-founder Allan Sheffield about their collaboration to personalize meals by combining food science with genetics. This article first appeared in Food and Beverage Trade May 2021.
When the team behind the Be Fit Food meal plan service appeared on the Shark Tank TV show in 2017, they didn’t anticipate the response that followed. In a former fishmonger transformed into a commercial kitchen, bought for a dollar, production went from 1,000 meals per week to 20 to 30,000 meals per week.
Be Fit Food CEO and co-founder Kate Save tells Catering company that they didn’t know there was a larger audience for their product.
“We just thought that the people who wanted our programs were people who went to dietitians and weight loss doctors.
“We realized there was a lot more demand when we reached 50,000 visitors to our website within minutes of the episode airing,” Save recalls.
Save, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator, started the business in 2015 with bariatric surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Draper.
Their goal was to help Australians eat healthier and reverse rising obesity rates. They had worked together for a decade, helping around 20,000 patients, and in doing so, they recognized a gap in the market for a science-backed weight loss program and meal plan service that also gave results. long term results.
It was in February of this year that the Be Fit Food team began their partnership with Melbourne-based genetics company myDNA to take their meal plans to a new level of personalization.
“The myDNA team approached us and told us they liked the science behind what we did,” Save says. “To me, I don’t understand why people can’t know what their DNA is – it’s your plan – you should be able to understand your individualized DNA to make your own decisions.
“In very simple terms, we should know why a person can eat cake because of their genetics, when someone else’s genetic makeup means they shouldn’t be. It’s extremely simplified, but this cake will react completely differently in different human beings – why don’t we know that ourselves? “
When Save found out via myDNA that the science was available, she knew this would be how they “could really change the health of Australians, by giving them the right information”.
Behind the plan
myDNA launched its health and wellness mobile app last December with a focus on personalization. MyDNA co-founder Professor Allan Sheffield told Food & Drink Business the goal is for people to learn about their genetics and then take action.
“It’s about looking at a person’s genetics and helping them learn more about their body so they can make better, more individualized choices based on their DNA,” Sheffield explains.
“Many members of the app have chosen weight loss as their goal and we’ve seen a strong alignment with what Be Fit Food is already doing with personalized meal plans. With genetics you can take it off another layer and customize it even more, which got us both turned on. “
To find out their genetics, a client’s DNA is collected with a painless swab from the cheek. The swab is sent to the myDNA lab where the team extracts the DNA material.
myDNA then works with BeFit Food by testing around 60 genetic markers on the results of each client.
From there, individuals are categorized into one of four diet profiles developed in partnership with CSIRO – Mediterranean, Protein Balance, Clean & Lean, and Lite & Trim. The results allow myDNA to maximize the protein, carbohydrate and fat macronutrients in each of the BeFit Food profiles, ultimately delivering a more personalized meal plan.
“For example, there’s a gene that people are predisposed to snacking more often,” says Save. “There is a lot of scientific evidence showing that protein can help regulate the regulation of your appetite, so a balanced protein diet will keep you fuller longer and help you get on with your snacking habits.”
The Be Fit Food range is completely frozen. Initially, the products were delivered fresh, but Save says it was “a logistically nightmare”.
“We were delivering but people wouldn’t be at home. We needed – and wanted – customers to have the security of knowing that food is safe to eat. “
While being frozen helps maintain the integrity of food, it also allows people to control their personalized weight loss program when they’re ready to start, rather than when meals arrive.
“It gives people the ability to do it as a program and specialize in what they eat. When people go through their seven day program of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, we get amazing results. On average, we see customers lose almost 5.6 kilograms in 14 days, ”says Save.
Be Fit Food partners with a manufacturer that has a production capacity of 150,000 meals per week and delivers nationwide.
“We only use evidence-based science – if there’s no evidence, we’re not interested. For us, the key is to make sure everything is nutritionally complete. As a team of doctors and dieticians, the health of clients comes first.
“We will never put something in a food that we don’t think would improve their health,” Save says.
Save and Sheffield both claim that the data collected in genetic testing belongs entirely to the customer.
Results are not shared without consent, with myDNA only providing advice and not the results to Be Fit Food when meal plans are recommended to a client.
“We are always transparent about privacy around genetics and are committed not to sell or share data without the consent of the individual,” Sheffield said. “Our point of view is that we are the stewards of their data, so if they want us to destroy it, we will.
“Part of our vision is to say that with all of this testing, let’s give people this information, so that they can make better choices and achieve better results when it comes to their health.”
Save says Be Fit Food is committed to keeping up with scientific advancements and will continue to partner with myDNA and CSIRO to help improve the health of Australians.
“By keeping up to date with the latest research and how it relates to nutrition, we can continually improve what we offer to our customers,” Save says. “MyDNA examines the latest DNA research and determines whether it can translate into an improvement in a person’s lifestyle, whether through diet and nutrition, exercise or other means. “
The team is now working with Deakin University to study the impact of a complete diet like Be Fit Food on gut microbes and, ultimately, mental health.
Save is committed to keeping Be Fit Foods at the forefront of scientifically-based solutions for people and their health.