18-year-old launches online grocery ‘shopping assistant’ to help those with food allergies stay safe

Founders Santiago Schmitt, 18, and Damilare Ogunleye wanted to make safer and easier grocery shopping for customers with dietary requirements.

“I think the cultural melting pot of my family always made food really important to me,” Santiago, one of the founders of FoodLama tells me. “I was always excited about trying new dishes and specialities and loved exploring the aisles of supermarkets to find new foods to try.” Santiago was diagnosed with eczema as a toddler and later found himself allergic to nuts and corn. His brother is also allergic to gluten and his mum is a vegan. Food was always an important part of Santiago’s life. But with the different preferences and dietary needs in his family, grocery shopping became very complicated. It was hard for them to find products in-store to match each person’s dietary requirements – making going to the supermarket a real challenge.

“I come from a family with a range of allergies, intolerances and preferences,” Santiago explained. “I’m allergic to nuts and intolerant to corn, my brother is gluten-free and my mum is vegan. For us, and many around us, online grocery shopping was always a real pain; we were either limited to the restrictive ‘free from’ sections or had to scour through long ingredient lists every time we wanted to find a safe product.”

Santiago knew there could be a way to make grocery shopping easier for people with dietary requirements – so he set himself on a mission to make it happen. With his budding idea in the works, Santiago joined forces with Damilare Ogunleye, an expert at e-commerce with experience working in Nestlé, and the pair set themselves out to turn their idea into reality. That was when FoodLama was born. FoodLama is a browser extension for customers to set their dietary requirements and preferences, so they can keep shopping at online supermarkets per usual – without worrying about ingredients. FoodLama shows the user what products the user can and can’t have. For products they can’t have, users can see a recommendation of the best alternative that matches their preferences from that grocer. 

Santiago and Damilare set themselves on a mission to build the right team before seeking out investors and raising capital for the business. “After Damilare and I connected as co-founders, and with a month to hash out a plan for how we would approach building Foodlama, the next obvious step was raising capital,” Santiago said. “For us, that meant reaching out to all the angels we had in our network and asking for intros to others. We came out a month later with £300k from a range of high-profile UK angels, including founders who have exited to Intel, Twitter and Snap and one of the board members of Kraft Heinz.” 

Since its launch last year, FoodLama has gone to greater heights. The firm now works alongside major supermarket retailers including ASDA and will be launching with further big online grocers in the years to come. FoodLama has also been backed by Google as part of their 2022 Black Founder Fund and received another £300K in funding from investors. Speaking about his mindset with future projects, Santiago said: “It is definitely one of real excitement! I see the potential FoodLama has to make grocery shopping for those with food allergies and intolerances simpler. I know we have a long way to go, but I look ahead with real optimism and am motivated by our customers’ stories of FoodLama making their life easier and less stressful.” 

Santiago and Damilare are now dedicated to growing FoodLama further and aims to work with every major food retailer in the UK. They are also planning on taking the business to US markets, and make FoodLama a ‘virtual consumer assistant’ to customers all over the world and across the online space, on mobile, food delivery giants, e-commerce and in the media. “What excites us the most is the big picture of where we could be,” Damilare said. “A future where we expand our product suite, customers, and geographies. This will include a browser extension, a mobile app, a food intelligence platform for businesses in the food value chain and a creator management solution for food content. At this point, we truly would have delivered a world where finding food that matches your diet preferences is super easy.”

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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