ONE DAY, former investigative journalist Taryn Fixel, who has covered politics, crime and war zones for CNN and CBS, wanted some specific information on food, whipped out her phone and headed to the app store, and came up empty-handed. Realizing that an app for making smart food choices was missing from our smart phones, Fixel went to work on perfecting an app to help consumers meet specific dietary restrictions and preferences like gluten-free, no refined sugar, low-carb, paleo, vegan — you name it. Thus, Ingredient1 was born. The best part (aside from the app being free!) is that you can find foods that fit your diet and the app will point you in the direction of the local grocery stores they can be purchased at. Fixel spoke with Lady Clever about changing careers, food choices, and how Ingredient1 will affect the food chain.
What are your goals for Ingredient1?
Ingredient1 will be where you create your culinary identity — and through that trusted lens, discover the best choices for you. We are scaling the geolocation of products to additional cities and partnering with food delivery services. We plan to expand beyond grocery products and apply the Ingredient1 lens to any food choice you’re making.
What has Ingredient1’s biggest success to date been?
Creating the largest consumer-facing dataset of natural and organic products that can be tailored and searched based on your specific dietary needs. Building a product that removes the chaos of the grocery store for shoppers, and at the same time improves the success-rate of healthy foods.
How did you go from investigative journalism to a food app? Was there a specific incident that lead you to the career change?
I loved my job at CNN — but I took a risk and left, thinking I would join a start-up focused on the future of news journalism. One day, my mom and I were discussing the challenge of finding foods that meet specific dietary preferences, and I thought — “Wait, why isn’t there a tech platform to help people do that?” So I went to an industry food show to ask people and the idea found traction!
Did you have any tech experience prior to starting Ingredient1?
Does operating an old-school beta camera count? Not formally, I won’t pretend to be technical. I’ve learned a lot.
How do users get connected to growers? Is the information so specific that it includes farming practices?
Shoppers are connected to specific products through our mobile app, which enables you to create your Food ID: Your diet, allergies, certifications you want, ingredient preferences, flavors you like or dislike. Then you can search for products or brands and see the best choices for you. Or discover new products that you might not think to search for based on your mood — like crunchy, savory, small. We include farming practices like Fair Trade, Organic, and NonGmo.
How do you think Ingredient1 will effect change in the food chain?
Ingredient1 empowers consumer voices to inform the market what shoppers want. With that information, brands can make more of what people want, spend less developing those products, and quickly get the products into the hands of shoppers who want them, which will increase the success rate of new products. This will increase the success-rate for entrepreneurs, decrease food waste, and expand the options for healthy and delicious eating.
How does Ingredient1 create a community between users?
You can discover trusted food recommendations from friends and tastemakers you follow on Facebook or Twitter. You can also learn their dietary needs or ingredients they love [and] dislike, which is great if you are having someone over for dinner.
Can you share how Ingredient1 works with the nutritionists for the app?
We work with them to verify product information is accurate. They also tag our ingredient database — for example, classifying over 1300 sugars into 12 classifications. Now with one tap you can say “I don’t want refined sugar” and only see foods for you!
What has been the biggest challenge switching careers?
Convincing myself that I could turn an idea with a large mission into a tangible product — there were so many points of hesitation along the way. But at each critical moment a door opened that I felt compelled to walk through. With each step, confidence grew. Fortunately, when I didn’t believe in myself, I was supported by a community of people who did.
Are there any skills you’ve found that served you well while pursuing such different careers?
Absolutely. As a journalist and entrepreneur, you begin with an idea and an ability to challenge assumptions. I didn’t need to have the solutions, I needed to know the questions and where to look for reliable answers. Then have the ability to understand the perspective of the individual and how much weight to give the answer based on what information they have access to.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a woman wanting to switch careers or found a start-up?
That idea that’s in the back of your mind: Schedule time on your calendar to think it through. Next Tuesday. Two hours. Block it off. Break down the idea – what and whose problem you are solving? Identify one action you can take on that idea. Now – set an expiration date on the idea. Give yourself permission to let it go if, after several of these exercises, the idea doesn’t seem like it can be a business. Clear that mind space for the next idea, which could be the one!
Taryn and Ingredient1 take the guesswork out of healthy eating, so we can enjoy our food without worry. Nom nom nom.