Update: May 24, 2023 – bitewell’s Seed round has reopened for another investor. The round will close oversubscribed; more than the initial $4 million. Lead Sports rebranded to leAD Sports.
People understand the benefits of eating a healthy diet. As a result, employers are slowly taking responsibility for their employees’ health. The quicker corporations offer healthier and more affordable options, the faster healthcare costs will decrease, and ROI will increase.
The main problem is the cost of healthy food. A recent paper published by Utah State University states that a family of four buying healthy food, depending on the children’s ages, would spend between $1,000-$1,200 a month ($12,000.00-$14,400 annually). For a comparison, the average middle income family in the United States spends roughly $6,224 on food each year with the average low income family spending even less at roughly $3,862 per year. An unhealthy diet can affect a person’s productivity. When people get sick from the food they eat or lack of nutrition, sick days are used.
In the United States, 20% of young people aged 2 to 19 years and 42% of adults have obesity, which can put them at risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Put into perspective, people with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of $16,752 per year, of which about $9,601 is attributed to diabetes. As a result, companies like bitewell are creating programs for businesses to decrease healthcare costs by offering healthier options in the workplace.
“Imagine that we are the biggest multi-vendor marketplace for food,” Samantha Citro Alexander, cofounder and CEO of bitewell, shares during a Zoom interview. “We pull in food supply from delivery and logistics providers that you already know and love. We pull in food supply from all the restaurant delivery apps. We pull in food supply from all the grocery delivery apps. We pull in food supplies from all of the meal kit companies. So for the first time, you can truly see the entire food supplies around you all in one place. And then, once we have all the supplies in place, we add what we call nutrition intelligence over the top. So we’ve identified these 300 food attributes that help us understand if it fits your needs from a health perspective.”
Alexander and her cofounder, Chris Fanucchi, built the healthy food marketplace that works directly with employers to provide food health benefits, reducing insurance premiums and improving health for users. They found that 75% of our healthcare dollars are used to treat preventable chronic diseases and conditions. People will increase their lifespan by six years if eating well in their thirties. Additionally, every dollar invested in healthier options saves $3.27 in return. Also, the organization is in the process of closing a Seed raise led by leAD Sports & Health Tech via the Lake Nona Fund following a $1.9 million Pre-Seed round.
“We’ve been following Sam and Chris, and the story of bitewell, for quite some time,” states Justin Driscoll, associate, investments & portfolio at leAD & Lake Nona Fund “When you see the founder tying together the bold, big mission statement of changing the way people eat food, that’s quite a claim to make. It takes a certain breed of individual to do that, and Sam was designed to be that person. You could tell this is more than a business idea, but it’s also more than a passion project. It’s right in the middle where she wants to truthfully change the world.”
Post college with an acting degree, Alexander began working at a skincare startup focused on the Indonesian herbal medicinal tradition of Jamu. She wore many hats for four years, including setting up the first website and building out the company’s social media presence. As the company grew, she wanted to challenge herself. A recruiter from Bridgewater, an investment management firm, contacted her. She eventually secured a position in an operations and management capacity.
“Bridgewater is known for their culture of radical truth and transparency and the set of principles under which they operate,” she explains. “It was through that culture and those principles that I learned a lot about myself. As a result, I changed my mindset in a couple of ways. The first way was being transparent, honest, and incredibly forthright; your thoughts and opinions can be very kind. Secondly, it changed my view of myself and my strengths. The fact that instead of focusing on bolstering my weaknesses to make them less weak, I should focus on bolstering my strengths to make them incredibly strong.”
During 2020, while working at Estee Lauder, marketing for Smashbox Cosmetics, she wanted to build her own company. A mutual friend connected her to Fanucchi, who was seeking assistance building a healthy food program. What started as a 20-minute call turned into three hours, leading to a three-year partnership. They grew the platform to now utilize food experts to simplify healthy eating by applying a customized FoodHealth Score. Employees download the app and can order food from over 1.2 million meals and products that fit their health needs.
Alexander’s key pivoting technique is to think about your life as a sand dune. When you’re in the weeds of your life, you can’t move because you’re covered in sand. But if you can find a way to climb out of the dune and stand on top of it, then you have free space to pivot in any direction you’d like. Most people try to pivot when they’re deeply mired in the sand dune of their life; you can’t see what’s ahead of you and you’re not agile because you’re stuck in what is instead of taking a moment to pull yourself up above the sand to give yourself 360 pivot ability.
“We deeply believe that the future of health and the healthcare industry is food,” Alexander concludes. “To give people access to healing food should be a part of our overall medical system. So we are pioneering healthy food as an insurance-sponsored benefit as part of your overall healthcare package.”