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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Being a food open data “prosumer” - FoodTrade Menu winner of Food Open Data Challenge

Earlier in the week we announced the Winner of the Food Open Data Challenge as a new product called FoodTrade Menu.

This has been developed by the team behind FoodTrade - Ed Dowding, Therese Stowell and Lyndsey Knight. The tool is used by restaurants and caterers to help them comply with new regulations on transparency of allergens in their food. From December 2014 these businesses need to flag where food that they sell contains one or more of 14 allergens such as gluten, crustaceans and peanuts. Using a combination of data provided by the food business, government open data and data from food producers, FoodTrade Menu produces a tailored menu for businesses which flag these allergens in their food to their customers.

FoodTrade won the competition due to the product’s innovative combination of using government open data, private sector data feeds and their commitments to making data open themselves. This model, being a prosumer (producer and consumer) of open data, is likely to be a model for many companies wanting to use open data. FoodTrade recognise that the work that they are undertaking could have uses for others in the food ecosystem which is part of their motivation to commit in the longer term to making some of their data available as open data.

We’re hopeful that part of the open data released by the FoodTrade team will, in time, include aggregated and anonymised information on the retailers and producers used by specific restaurants and food businesses - starting to shed light on the supply chain. In addition, the team were able to engage with the Food Standards Agency who were producing the open data which they incorporate in the product and were able to give feedback on the way in which the open data was being made available.

When we chose Food as the theme for the fifth Open Data Challenge we knew that the main interest from the community would be around supply chain transparency given recent scandals such as horse meat making it into the UK supply chain.

However, in designing our challenge question it became apparent that we couldn’t just target a challenge on this issue as most of the data related to this is held by food producers and retailers and not released openly. The identification of the new burdens that the regulation on allergen transparency would impose on food businesses was an opportunity which was recognised by a number of the teams that took part in the challenge and helped show the usefulness of the open data that is already available.

FoodTrade Menu also had stiff competition from the other finalists from the Challenge - Vital FootPrint, who also developed a proposition targeted at food businesses and their compliance to this new EU directive which was accompanied by a consumer facing app EatJoy which will be launched in the Apple App Store soon, and OMYGOODNESS who developed a smartphone game for parents and children to use during a shopping trip to make healthier choices.

If you are interested in taking part in our final challenge of this series - the Jobs Open Data Challenge - you have until 30th March to submit your idea on our participant platform.

We are also holding a meetup on 25th February at Google Campus if you want to find out more.


Ed Parkes

Ed Parkes

Ed Parkes

Senior Programme Manager

Ed worked in the Innovation Lab in Nesta, as the Senior Programme Manager for the Open Data Challenge Series, which was run in partnership with the Open Data Institute.

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