How one mother’s struggle to feed her allergic son inspired a meal planning startup
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Miils founder Katja Ratamäki (left) started the company in response to her son's extreme food allergies. Photo credit: PR

Miils, a Finnish, female-run startup, makes meal planning for people with dietary restrictions simple

With the holidays having come and gone, it is the time of year again when people around the world lay out for themselves a series of unattainable New Year’s resolutions, hoping to live just a little bit better this year than they did the year before.

Topping this list is the ubiquitous desire to eat healthier, dropping some of that oh-so-delicious junk food. Any dietitian can tell you that the key to healthy eating isn’t going to come as part of a fad diet, but in designing a meal plan that you can sustain consistently throughout the year.

One of the biggest problems in making this goal a reality is that most people do not know where to start. So this year, one female-run Finnish startup might have the answer on how to make a healthier meal plan, even for picky eaters or those with restricted diets.

Starting from scratch

Photo credit: Miils

Photo credit: Miils

Founded by Katja Ratamäki in 2012, Miils grew out of a very real life problem for Ratamäki. When her youngest child was born, she says that he was constantly getting sick because of the food that she was eating, since she was breastfeeding. Ratamäki moved from doctor to doctor looking for answers, seeking solutions and a diet that would be sustainable.

Eventually, her diet was cut until she could eat only ten different ingredients in an attempt to identify which of the foods she was eating was causing her son to be sick. He was having allergic reactions to the point that he could almost eat nothing.

Ratamäki was forced to start building his diet from scratch, based on the elements he could eat. After a long period of trial and error, he started getting better. When he began eating by himself, she had to go through all of the ingredients listed on the products in the stores to make sure he could eat them.

After emerging from her arduous ordeal, Ratamäki decided that she wanted to create a place where people could go through different diet plans and design the meals that suited their tastes and needs.

While Ratamäki initially had people with restrictive diets in mind for her product, she realized the potential for the general public as well. As a lifelong techie, she has taken her idea to the web, designing a platform where users can configure their meal plans, taking any restrictions or goals into account.

Users can select suggested meals, creating a daily meal plan by dragging the recipes into the list. There is also a feature where people can follow popular profiles or nutritionists that post their personal recommendations. The site shows the user the nutritional value of their meals, breaking it down into easy to understand graphs and tables. The platform helps the user understand the portion and serving sizes, which is important for organizing the shopping list later.

Ratamäki tells Geektime that they are able to get to know users over time and offer them more personalized suggestions.

After helping to design a meal plan, Miils goes a step further and gives their users options for ordering the necessary items. They have partnered with a number of supermarkets and other vendors like prepared food sellers as a part of their business model, sharing in the revenue. Additionally, dieticians can post their services and pay Miils a bit for any clients they find on the site.

How are they different from other meal planning apps?

Ratamäki says that co-creation and showing the different elements of their meal plans are two things that help them stand out from the competition. While there has been a rise of services like Plated and Blue Apron that also deliver ingredients or prepared meals, Miils comes at this with an approach that directly addresses the needs of those with severe restrictions. Ratamäki hopes to partner with these types of companies to reach out to some of the more niche audiences that could be better served by her services.

Miils may face some fiercer competition from sites like Nutrino, Eat This Much, and Gatheredtable, which have similar products. Nutrino, a paid service, has integrations with health tracking wearables like Fitbit, which can help provide a fuller picture for the user.

However, Miils’ social aspect of following other users has an appeal that meshes well with their Pinterest-like design, a format that will likely speak well to their targeted audiences, particularly moms.

Looking ahead

With their team of four, Ratamäki tells Geektime that they currently have roughly 500 active users. The service is still in Beta mode, and they are expecting to launch their mobile apps for iOS and Android in the first quarter of 2016.

Miils is a part of the Vertical healthtech accelerator located in the hi-tech town of Espoo outside of Helsinki. Through Vertical, participating Finnish and international startups are given access to large corporates like Samsung that have massive distribution networks for their products. In addition to this important framework, Miils has benefitted from the Finnish ecosystem in the form of grants from the country’s technology support organization Tekes, which has given them €115,000 in funding.

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Gabriel Avner

About Gabriel Avner

Gabriel has an unhealthy obsession with new messaging apps, social media and pretty much anything coming out of Apple. An experienced security and conflict consultant, he has written for The Diplomatic Club, the Marine War College, and covers military affairs with TLV1 radio. He mostly enjoys reading articles wherever his ADD leads him to and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. EEED 44D4 B8F4 24BE F77E 2DEA 0243 CBD1 3F7C F4B6

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