ResTech

DNA For Dinner: London Restaurant Vita Mojo Offers Food Customization Based On Genomes

Like strands in the double helix of DNA, the home of London’s most customizable diet and a gene analysis lab are intertwining to create something truly magnificent: the healthiest meal in the world.

That goes deeper than five fruits a day, personal fitness goals and taste preferences. The healthiest meal in the world is different for everyone, and DNA holds the key to food customization for the perfect meal. London restaurant Vita Mojo has teamed up with DNAFit to unlock it.

“In general, good dietary advice is good dietary advice, but a genetic test can flag up areas where a person may need to focus more of their efforts,” said DNAFit CEO Avi Lasarow, who founded the company in 2013 after departing his long-term job in the life sciences.

For instance, said Lasarow, even though vegetables are good for everyone, people with a small variation in a gene that increases their vitamin D needs in their diet would want to focus more on the green leafy ones. Others may need more colorful vegetables, depending on the gene SOD2.

Or take caffeine, for another example. The debate has raged on about whether caffeine is good or bad for people. The answer is “both.” Those who have the AC and CC genotype within the gene CYP1A2 will want to limit caffeine since it can increase the risk of hypertension and heart disease. But for those with the AA genotype, caffeine does the exact opposite and lowers the risk.

Lasarow leveraged his own genetics to get back in shape after he left his company in 2012 and subsequently put on weight. Unable to find a reliable consumer brand that collated the science of genetics for weight loss, he developed a solution for himself. Once he’d reached his own weight loss goals, it became clear to him that he needed to take that solution to others on a large scale.

In its partnership with Vita Mojo, DNAFit will receive and analyze cheek swab samples from guests at the restaurant. The lab looks at 50 genes that influence the body’s response to diet and exercise. Each of those 50 genes has the scientific backing of three or more peer-reviewed studies.

After analysis, DNAFit will disburse diet and fitness advice to be added to the customer’s profile in some form. Vita Mojo is still determining the most secure way for this information to be stored and accessed.

If the method is anything like the way the restaurant handles payment info, customers won’t have to worry about security. The company leverages payment platforms Stripe and iZettle rather than ever handling guests’ information directly. (Using these platforms also enabled it to become the first High Street cashless restaurant in London.)

Like payment data, the genetic data of customers would be heavily encrypted and accessed only on a need-to-know basis when tailoring that perfect food customization meal.

“The foundation of what we are doing with Vita Mojo is the understanding that we are all individuals with different needs, preferences and priorities,” said Vita Mojo product director and cofounder Stefan Catoiu. “Eating is probably one of the most deeply personal experiences.”

“DNAFit is one of the top providers of genetic information for fitness and nutrition,” Catoiu said. “Translating lab results into actionable information will add another dimension to how someone eats that goes well beyond personal preference and wellbeing goals.”

Catoiu, an organic farm owner, cofounded Vita Mojo with Nick Popovici, a former finance worker, in early 2016. They teamed up with chef Paul Davies and former Formula One nutritionist Helene Patounas to develop the offerings for their first restaurant in St. Paul’s.

Vita Mojo already offers its guests unparalleled freedom of food customization by flavors, ingredients, quantities, macronutrients, diet and fitness goals for a grand total of over 9 billion meal combinations. Following the partnership announced last week, now it will be able to tailor meals even more closely to fit customers’ fundamental genetic needs as well as their cravings.

Two years ago, Vita Mojo developed software to support that level of food customization while also controlling for pricing and costs. Today, it has three locations in London, having added locations at Spitalfields and Canary Wharf later on. It just raised £3 million ($3.8 million USD) through a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube — twice its original funding goal.

Tomorrow, Vita Mojo hopes to open new locations and start building the infrastructure to sell its customization software to other restaurants. The company sees personalization as the future of food, and its goal is to make that the norm worldwide. The founders predict that Vita Mojo’s software will really be the cash cow, even as they labor to expand the restaurant’s dine-in and delivery services.

Catoiu said that customers should be able to reap the fruits of the DNAFit partnership by the end of summer.

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