NatureBox chews on $8.5M to tackle obesity epidemic with healthier …

Snacks are helping make America fat. Most snack food in America is junk, loaded with empty calories, salt, sugar, and unhealthy oils, and once you open that bag of chips or box of cookies, it’s hard to stop.

NatureBox is addressing this issue with an online subscription service for healthier snack food. Today the company announced closing $8.5 million to make eating well in-between meals easier.

NatureBox delivers boxes filled with nutritionist-approved healthy snacks every month for $20. Each box contains five full-sized snack items, free from high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors. NatureBox produces all the food itself and gets ingredients from local growers and independent food producers. The assortment generally includes a range of sweet and salty snacks based on a seasonal theme. Treats include various kinds of granolas, trail mixes, fruit and vegetable chips, and nut- and seed-based snacks.

“We started NatureBox to disrupt the grocery industry that has devolved into a sea of too many choices,” said CEO Gautam Gupta to VentureBeat. “We think having more items on shelf isn’t the answer to consumer needs – we believe that through data, we can create a much more personal shopping experience for consumers and give consumers products that they will love.”

Market research firm IRI found that 49 percent of the population has one to two snacks a day while 43 percent have three to four, and 60 percent of consumers snack for enjoyment. Whether it is to satisfy hunger, boost energy, out of boredom, or in a social setting, Americans consume almost 25 percent of their daily calories from snacking, and most of these foods consist of empty calories. Snacking is a major cause of childhood obesity, which has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. One-third of children and adolescents are overweight and obese in the U.S.

While unhealthy snacks contribute to weight gain, healthy snacks are part of an overall healthy diet. Health experts have found that small, nutritious snacks speed up your metabolism and curb hunger and consumers are growing more aware of how to eat well.  THe IRI study found that 87 percent of consumers said they are trying to eat healthier, and sales for natural and organic snacks are on the rise. This is where NatureBox steps in. If you are going to snack, might as well get some actual nutrients while you are at it.

Food startups are beginning to tackle how we eat from various angles. Love with Food, Pop-Up Pantry, Hello Fresh, and Hungry Globetrotter all deliver food to your door. Some streamline grocery shopping, and others make home cooking easier.

Since launching in 2012, NatureBox has shipped 50,000 boxes to its customers and is on track to ship over 1 million annual shipments by the end of this year. It is adding in five to 10 new products a month and currently offers 80 items. Its business model seems difficult to scale, since the supply chain requires actually finding, manufacturing, packing, and delivering consumer goods.  This round of funding will help NatureBox expand its customer base and meet demand for the service.

General Catalyst Partners led this first institutional round, following an initial seed investment last year. New investor Softbank Capital also participated. This brings NatureBox’s total capital raised to $10.5 million. It is based in San Carlos, Calif.

Vending machine snacks can damage childrens’ health

According to a new health report published by www.sciencedaily.com, children who are in the habit of eating snacks from vending machines are more likely to develop chronic health problems. They may also be at a risk of obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease.

The research was conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School, analyzing food sold in schools and offered by the USDA lunch program. The result of the study showed that the food was putting school childrens’ health at risk. Researchers commented that children develop eating habits early on and these may stick for the rest of their lives.

During the study, 2,309 children in grades 1 to 12 from different schools in the country were analyzed, says the report published in www.physorg.com. The data was collected with the help of questionnaires that registered the childrens’ food habits for 24 hours.

Out of the total number of students surveyed, 22% consumed food from vending machines. The percentage increased to 52% in children from elementary and middle schools.

Snacks and soft drinks are the most commonly sold items that harm childrens’ health. According to researcher Madhur Kakarala, “Targeted nutrition education to promote the importance of healthful snacks is further stressed by the Child Nutrition Act- the major federal legislation that determines school food policy and resources. These and other types of school-enforced policies can be very helpful for children in making smarter eating choices throughout the school day.”

Images: Dan Taylor on Flikr and Wikimedia Commons

Regular snacking helps stay fit

A recent health study has claimed that kids in their teenage who snack more may weigh lesser than their counterparts. According to www.timescolonist.com, the study has found that teenagers who consume short meals at regular intervals throughout the day stand at lesser risk to become obese or overweight as compared to adolescents who consume larger meals.

The study was conducted by a team of US researchers, and was carried out on 5,800 teenagers. The report suggests that abdominal obesity takes a plunge as the kids developed the habit of snacking through the day.

As reported by www.reuters.com, a huge part of energy spent by teenagers while watching television, playing videogames or during physical activity is derived from short snacking. However, the researchers added that snacking should not include heavy food items it should rather consist of fresh fruits, dry fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products and whole grains, about which the researchers commented “that we know kids are not getting enough of.”

The study was recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dr. Debra R. Keast went on to say that teenagers should cut down on sugary beverages.

Celebrities who have had weight issues include John GoodmanOprah WinfreyKirstie AlleySara Rue and Sharon Osbourne.

Images: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1280616, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/527428