Digital Signage Makes Kids Eat Their Broccoli

Entering the digital signage sector as a vendor these days requires a lot of careful thinking about what niches still exist out there.

Not many, I’d think.

nutrislice-logoBut there are some clever people putting together products and services that go right at problems, and coming up with what at least look nice solutions. Like Nutrislice.

The bootstrapped 18-month-old startup is entirely focused on battling childhood obesity and terrible eating habits with a multi-pronged lunchroom education program that has interactive digital signage as a core component.

Engage and educate your students with digital signage, mobile texting, and healthy eating competitions, reads the company pitch.

Nutrislice Interactive Digital Signage is the only menu board solution designed specifically for K12 school food service. No other solution offers the same level of features, flexibility, visual impact, client support, or affordable cost.

Whether you’re looking to quickly deploy a powerful nutrition education program or dramatically increase participation by promoting your menu items — or both — you won’t find a better solution.

Innovative school districts that use our digital signage solution all agree — it’s easy to use and transforms their cafeteria into a lunch-time experience. An experience that leads to consumption of healthy foods and an understanding of how to make healthy decisions.

ids-artichoke

The solution includes a library of crisp slides that drive information to lunchroom screens about healthier eating choices and explain what things like artichokes are, and why it’s not scary to eat them. So this is not conventional menuboard work that is about item and price and not much else. It’s about getting kids eating the “gross” stuff that’s actually going to keep them healthy or put them on that path.

I really like the text message to screen polling that allows kids to vote and show near real-time results on what the assembled mob thought of that day’s menu choices and execution by the kitchen. Then there’s an eating competition that gets gets a lunchroom full of kids competing to see how many of them actually finished their servings. Real-time charting shows how many of the cups of kiwi slices were downed versus the apple slices.

I’m not sure how well this would work with jaded high schoolers (OK, not at all), but primary school kids will jump on any contest. One educator, in a video about Nutrislice, related how broccoli consumption rocketed to 100 percent from far lower norms.

The company also has a test kitchen mobile app that lets kids try proposed meal items and rate them using provided handsets.

The company’s base product takes a school or school district’s menu plans and turns them into what I assume is a responsive (flexible) set of digital menus that look and work fine on iPhones, Android handsets, desktop and laptop PCs, and tablets (and can also still output to print).

I like the idea that one input gets multiple outputs.

“We founded the company with a goal to use cool technology to fight childhood obesity,” says Mike Craig, a co-founder. “Those who are currently engaged in fighting this epidemic are extremely passionate and their efforts would be amplified if technology could help them better connect with the younger generation.”

The business model is based on clients – such as PTAs, private & public schools, school nutrition programs, non-profits, and healthcare groups – pay an annual license. 8. Costs are based on the number of schools and the features that they want to use. “Most districts are able to justify cost with their ROI,” says Craig, noting the return is usually pegged to sales of healthier of choices in lunchrooms.

The solution is built around increasing the nutritional IQ of kids and influencing better eating habits and choices. Nutrislice has things like a nutrition education library, interactive video clips, and polling. The company uses  collaboration with student groups, doctors, and registered dieticians to help make content and development decisions.

There’s no advertising, but Craig says that could work with the right kind of advertising, like fruit and vegetable marketing boards. QSRs, not so much.

The company is still pretty small, with 50 or so schools installed, but the potential is huge. There are more than 100,000 schools in the US alone, and childhood obesity is a very widespread problem.

The platform is based on web technologies like HTML 5, and the net effect is an easily customized solution that is not much more than a full screen browser. It’s not all that sophisticated when matched up with most commercial platforms, but then it doesn’t really need to be.

I like, and tend to think some smart people at companies like Aramark and Sodexo – that do food services in gazillions of cafeterias – should take note.