When Chris Fanucchi flew out to meet the distributors of his previous startup, he found himself in a new city, wondering what to eat besides the flaws of fast food or pizza. A few years later, he met Samantha Citro Alexander, who found herself in similar situations, but with the added difficulty of navigating allergy restrictions.
The result of that meeting is bitewell – a personalized meal planning startup that plans to launch in Dallas in the coming weeks.
“Our mission as a company is to make healthy eating simple and accessible to everyone,” co-founder and CMO Citro Alexander told Dallas Innovates. She calls bitewell “a complete ecosystem of healthy eating”.
Pilot bitewell app is now available in the Dallas area
When users download the app, which is currently open for a pilot phase to Dallas-area users, they are integrated into a quick survey on things like allergies, dietary restrictions, food preferences and goals. Then, based on their eating habits, the bitewell app connects them to restaurants and recipes that meet their needs.
Provide restaurant menu transparency
On the restaurant side, bitewell has a three-tier model of control establishments. At the first level, the bitewell algorithm takes publicly available data about a restaurant’s offerings to make informed decisions about its healthiness.
At level two, a clinician calls the restaurant, obtaining information on things like the types of oil used and cross-contamination practices.
The third level is a formal partnership with the restaurant, where the establishment shares its cookbook with bitewell, so the company can analyze every detail under a non-disclosure agreement. Already, the company has local businesses like Unleavened Fresh Kitchen and Bread Zeppelin listed on the third tier.
“Our goal is to really support every dietary decision you make in a day,” Citro Alexander said. “We want to be able to not only provide transparency on all of these things, but we also want to be able to help you track, over time, the impact of these food choices on how your body feels.”
Citro Alexander said a partnership with a third party will allow food to be ordered for delivery to restaurants. The company also offers more than 10,000 recipes prepared by dieticians and nutritionists, based on user preferences, according to bitewell website.
The founder sold his previous brand Limitless to Keurig Dr Pepper
The concept behind bitewell started after Fanucchi sold its previous brand of sparkling water Limitless to Plano-based Keurig Dr Pepper in 2020. Prior to that, Fanucchi previously founded the plant-based beverage brand Koia, which can be found on the shelves of Whole Foods. About a year later, he met Citro Alexander through a mutual friend in Bitewell backer Antler, an early-stage venture capital firm. Prior to joining the bitewell team, Citro Alexander served as director of consumer engagement and integrated marketing in North America for the Estée Lauder Companies Smashbox brand.
“What we found is that half of the grocery and consumer packaged goods data is practically publicly available,” Citro Alexander said. “The other half of the data on what we eat – restaurant and ready meals – is not available at all. That’s how we ended up here.
Initially the company started as a e-commerce platform serving dietitian-curated emerging food and beverage brands directly to consumers – a business Fanucchi was familiar with through contacts at his previous companies. From there, Citro Alexander said the company began testing things like combinations of dietary restrictions, allergens and ingredient lists people were looking for, using that data to create the current iteration. from bitewell.
“We’ve built from that information, and we’re at a much more mature state,” Citro Alexander said.
Want to start soon
Already offering data on about 600 restaurants in the Dallas area and more than 10,000 on the back end nationwide, bitewell is looking to officially launch in the coming weeks. Citro Alexander considers the Dallas area a great place to start, not only because it’s based here, but also because of its heavy restaurant business and how often residents tend to dine out.
“Dallas is one of the greatest cities in which to eat,” said Citro Alexander. “It’s a city with a lot of people who have been here a long time and a lot of people who are new and flooding in, and really looking for options and help and advice on what and how to eat. All of those things combined into made the perfect city for us to test.
Seed Funding Round
As well as launching her app, Citro Alexander said bitewell was set to close a seed funding round in the coming weeks, though she declined to say how much the company was looking to raise. The money will help Bitewell grow its technology and team, with the company aiming to double the number of people working at Bitewell to 40 by the end of the year.
The funding will also help launch bitewell in new cities. Citro Alexander said the company aims to launch next in Chicago, where Fanucchi is based, with the intention of eventually becoming an international brand.
“We have to do a few key things,” said Citro Alexander. “We need to continue to grow our supply and really connect with all possible food supply partners, so that we have as many options as possible. We also really need to develop demand.
“We will be mostly (focused) in big cities or big suburbs, where there is a critical mass of people,” she added. “But we also want to expand beyond that, to serve markets that haven’t traditionally been served with healthier food options.”
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