Posts Tagged ‘PERSFO’

A high-level overview of the different PERSFO studies

Author: Robin De Croon, postdoc at KU Leuven

The PERSFO application is an ongoing, evolving smart food platform. Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the studies were set-up as hybrid studies.

Design study

The PERSFO application user interface was developed using a mixed-methods, user-centered design methodology and consisted of three focus groups, one co-design session, and one semi-structured interview with two dietitians. Ethical approval was granted by

the Ethics Committee of KU Leuven (G 2019 12 1911). The full design stage can is published in IEEExplore: Motivational design techniques to support healthy eating habits at work.


Data acquisition study

At the end of 2020, a virtual, but fully working prototype was deployed at Argenta Headquarters Belgium. The main goal was to test the technical integration and gather sufficient data to improve the recommender algorithm. The PERSFO application was connected to Sodexo’s food management system through the intermediate PERSFO architecture. The two-week study period resulted in 427 orders placed (participants could order multiple meals e.g., main course and snack), 9066 logged interactions with the app, and on average 9 orders per user. Seven participants registered their allergens, 14 participants liked meals with on average 7 ± 8 likes. Seven participants also gave feedback on the recommended recipe (by indicating disliked ingredients).


Integration Food Frequency Questionnaire and Quisper platform

In 2021, the integration of the Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) and the technical integration with the Quisper platform received high priority. An improved prototype was deployed at Sodexo headquarters’ restaurant. Sixteen participants tested the application for one week and completed the full FFQ questionnaire. Participants received personalized feedback through the Food4Me Quisper service that was tailored to the Belgian food database. Moreover, the main aim was to gather sufficient data to tailor personalized recommendations based on the dietary profile of the user. User could indicate whether the agreed with a recommendation or not by using thumbs up and down icons.


Personalized, but transparent meal recommendations

Finally, at the start of 2022 the final version of the PERSFO application was deployed at J&J Beerse and J&J Geel in a fully hybrid study. The real menus served in the company restaurants are shown in the app, and users can order a meal when they are on location, or virtually confirm an order on the days they are working from home.


Participants’ FFQ data is processed by Quisper and the personalized feedback is used to recommend healthy meal alternatives for eight consecutive weeks. An important additional feature is the additional explanations users receive when they want to consult a personalized recommendation as shown below:

Right: home screen of the PERSFO application. User can click on ‘why’ to receive personalized advice why a certain meal was recommended. Left: the different weights are visualized towards the user.


The study is currently still ongoing and is expected to end mid-March. Over the two study locations, 81 participants completed the Food Frequency Questionnaire and 42 users are using the application to create (virtual) orders. In total 276 orders have been created, while 8600 interactions are logged.

Future-proofing our food services

Author: John Wright, SVP Global Head of Food at Sodexo

Food is a gesture of love. It’s an expression of who we are and what we celebrate. There is no doubt that food brings us together in shared appreciation for fresh ingredients, local farmers and global tastes.

The food industry is going through seismic changes, when we’ve often been unable to come together with large groups of friends physically over a meal. But that doesn’t mean our love of food as a global community has changed. Today, consumers all over the world expect:

  • authentic and convenient food experiences,
  • options focused on health and wellbeing,
  • more personalized food services,
  • food which has the best interest of our planet in mind.

It’s clear that the hybrid office that’s emerging from the pandemic is transforming our restaurants, allowing today’s office worker to enjoy their meals inside and outside the traditional restaurant walls with new ways to place and receive their orders. As a company, we’ve learnt a lot over the past year and have adapted and expanded our dining options to offer greater choice and convenience to our guest all over the world.


Speedy and convenient solutions

We want to meet guests where they are, wherever they want to enjoy their meals, and we’ve launched creative solutions for today’s modified work, study and dining spaces. Our Modern Recipe concepts offers contemporary menu items in smart vending kiosks and shop-and-go retail stores, allowing guests to select food on a schedule that works for them.


Healthy and planet-friendly meals 

In addition to convenience, many of our guests share our concern for the welfare of our planet and actively want to select food options with a lower environmental impact as well as with health and wellbeing in mind.


User-friendly ordering technology

It’s not enough just to deliver food, the way our guests select their meals has to be intuitive too. We’re keeping guests happy and safe by implementing innovative solutions like self-service food locker pickup and scan-and-go technology. At the same time, we have expanded our digital ordering for click and collect including contactless payment across our business.


Food that connects

Personalized food experiences designed to satisfy and delight employees are already on the rise. With employees working from a variety of locations, their relationship with food is continually changing, demanding flexible menu choices that promote wellness and enable productivity, and seamless, personalized ordering and delivery technology.


Future-proof food

We understand the need to be on the forefront of innovation and this is why we’re dedicated to creating contemporary ideas and solutions for meeting the evolving preferences of our guests—with more menu choices, more flexibility in ordering and more options for payment and delivery. We share our love of food every day with our guests, and we can’t wait to see how we shape the future of food together.

Original article on Sodexo website here.

Why do we need personalised nutrition in the workplace?

Author: Daniela Segovia-Lizano, Quadram Institute Bioscience

The covid-19 situation affected people’s lives in so many ways, including changing workplace settings for working-from-home environments. This has had an impact on people’s lifestyles, especially dietary habits.

Before the pandemic, people used to spend the greater proportion of a day at the office, which meant one or more meals were consumed outside of the home. For many, bringing homemade meals to work was not feasible due to a lack of time for groceries and/or cooking, convenience, cooking skills, preparation time and facilities at work. This is when canteens in the workplace and nearby restaurants come into play. Millions of people worldwide were eating at their workplace canteens, meaning food service providers were responsible of feeding workers who relied on their menu plans and recipes to satisfy their hunger and consider nutritional requirements.

Overnight, this situation changed and individuals who had purchased their meals at work were forced to eat at home instead. For some, this was an opportunity to (re-)learn how to cook or prepare meals they did not usually have time for. For others, circumstances represented a real challenge and it led to many of them opting to eat ready-meals and/or frozen products, which are usually high in saturated fat, sugars and salt.


How did Covid-19 affect people’s dietary habits?

COVIDiet took place in several European countries with the aim to examine and understand dietary changes across their populations due to Covid-19 public health restrictions. An online questionnaire was used to collect anonymised data from participants, such as demographics (age, gender, education, residence, country region, children), consumption habits, and adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet, evaluated using the Mediterranean diet adherence screener (MEDAS; scale range 0-14), as a reference point for a healthy diet.

Main outcomes of these studies were:

  1. Spanish COVIDiet Study1 amongst 7514 participants

Positive changes:

  • Increased intake of fruits, vegetables, and legumes
  • Increased adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MEDAS score: 6.53 ±00)
  • Decreased intake of fast-food, fried-food, red meat, sweet/carbonated beverages
  • Reduced snacking

Negative changes:

  • Decrease in physical activity


  1. Lithuanian COVIDiet Study2 amongst 2447 participants

Positive changes:

  • Two-thirds cooked at home more often
  • Decreased intake of sweet/carbonated beverages, fast-food and commercial pastries
  • Small increase in adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MEDAS score: 5.13 ±88)

Negative changes:

  • Half reported eating more than usual
  • Almost half increased snacking
  • Increased consumption of homemade pastries and fried foods
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Decrease in physical activity


  1. Croatian COVIDiet Study3 amongst 4281 participants

Positive changes:

  • Average adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MEDAS score: 5.85 ±04).
  • Half increased cooking frequency, which was associated with increased intakes of vegetables, legumes, fish, and seafood.

Negative changes:

  • A third decreased physical activity


Compared with Spain and Lithuania, most Croatians maintained previous dietary habits during Covid-19 confinement.


Workplace and effects on health

Workplace lifestyles have been associated with a combination of sedentary routines, typically sitting in front of a computer or on a production line for long periods and eating fast food (high in fat and sugar contents). Sedentary behaviours and unhealthy eating patterns are linked to weight gain and obesity and hypertension as well as increased risk of non-communicable diseases, i.e., diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Evidence from previous nutritional interventions in the workplace has shown that initiatives targeting dietary behaviours associated with increased fruits and vegetables and fibre, and reduced saturated fats and red meat intake can be effective in improving overall health (4).

The EIT Food-funded Personalised and connected food service providers (PERSFO) aims to help people in the workplace to eat more healthily by connecting the food service provider’s menu with their goals to deliver scientifically validated personalised nutrition advice (via Quisper » Information services for personalised nutrition and lifestyle advice) using behavioural techniques that are acceptable for the individual (e.g. nudging, coaching, directing).


How can PERSFO help workers improve dietary habits long-term?

Irrespective of how people’s dietary habits changed during public health restrictions, a tool like PERSFO can be the perfect allied in the return-to-workplace. For those who adopted healthier habits, PERSFO can maintain these by providing recommendations, based on the foods that are available. For those who would like to improve their dietary habits after lockdown, PERSFO can help them achieve their goals and make positive decisions that will -hopefully- turn into long-lasting habits.



  1. Rodríguez-Pérez, C., Molina-Montes, E., Verardo, V., Artacho, R., García-Villanova, B., Guerra-Hernández, E. J., & Ruíz-López, M. D. (2020). Changes in Dietary Behaviours during the COVID-19 Outbreak Confinement in the Spanish COVIDiet Study. Nutrients12(6), 1730. doi:10.3390/nu12061730
  2. Kriaucioniene, V., Bagdonaviciene, L., Rodríguez-Pérez, C., & Petkeviciene, J. (2020). Associations between Changes in Health Behaviours and Body Weight during the COVID-19 Quarantine in Lithuania: The Lithuanian COVIDiet Study. Nutrients12(10), 3119. doi:10.3390/nu12103119
  3. Pfeifer, D., Rešetar, J., Gajdoš Kljusurić, J., Panjkota Krbavčić, I., Vranešić Bender, D., Rodríguez-Pérez, C., Ruíz-López, M. D., & Šatalić, Z. (2021). Cooking at Home and Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet During the COVID-19 Confinement: The Experience From the Croatian COVIDiet Study. Frontiers in nutrition8, 617721.
  4. Quintiliani, L., Poulsen, S., & Sorensen, G. (2010). Healthy Eating Strategies in the Workplace. International journal of workplace health management3(3), 182–196.

Daniela Segovia-Lizano

Senior Research Scientist

Quadram Institute Bioscience

From Customization to Personalization (and Beyond)

Author: Claudia Parms Alberts Marketing, Sales & PR

What if you never got stuck on thinking about what to eat? What if someone else presented you day after day with the exact meal you did not even know you were craving?

Alberts is on a mission to make a healthy life the easiest option. How do they do that? By making healthy eating effortless. But, that sounds easier said than done, right?

That is why the start-up created the first automated blending vending machine for smoothies, soups and shakes with a personal touch. What does that mean exactly?


Customization is now mainstream

Today, consumers can already customize their smoothie. When you open the Alberts App, you can fill a cup with the ingredients of your choice. When you have crafted your delicious recipe, you scan the QR code to send the recipe to the robot. Our blending station will take care of everything else.

This is basically what you can do in most restaurants as well today. You can pick and choose ingredients for your pizza. You can select side dishes to pimp up your meal. However, this does not allow the Chef in the kitchen to prepare something that is really personalized to you.

The vision of Alberts is to integrate an automated robot with an intelligent platform to go beyond just customization and create a real personal user experience.

To make this happen, Alberts joined the consortium with specialized partners who are experts in machine learning, data analytics, food service, etc.


How can we personalize on a large scale?

Personalized nutrition does sound like a utopian view on how the food industry and consumption could develop, especially when you envision a world where you can personalize to individual needs and preferences on a worldwide scale.

So, how will we go about that?

Let’s start with a situation most of us are familiar with. You’re finishing up at work and you get an email. It’s from Netflix. “We’ve added a new movie you might like.”

Now, how does Netflix know “what you might like”? Based on your preferences and view history, Netflix knows what you are most likely to appreciate next. Which is great, right? If you are not sure what you feel like watching, you will not lose too much time sifting through the list of movies, or worse; waste your evening by selecting a bad movie.

 This is what Alberts wants to do with food. We want to give you personalized recommendations for meals and snacks. Do you want to develop a balanced eating routine, but are not sure what would be good for you to eat? Our food recommender will make a personalized suggestion for you.


How does a recommender system work?

First our system will get to know you better. This way, the Alberts App can suggest the perfect smoothie recipes for you; just how you like it, and when you need it.

These recommendations would include information about:

  • taste preferences
  • allergies
  • metabolic system
  • workout habits
  • location

Let us look at an example. Imagine a typical day when you just finished your workout at the gym. Your wearable or smartphone notifies you with a suggestion for your perfect smoothie to get re-energized.

The platform will take into account:

  • your preference for pineapple,
  • your allergy for strawberries,
  • your energy dip from the afternoon workout

The result: a smoothie recipe personalized to your taste and dietary needs.


Can we go beyond personalization?

The short answer: yes we can.

As the science behind food personalization becomes more developed, there is a huge potential to take the recommender platform one step further.

Every person has a different DNA. From that DNA, doctors can tell if you are lactose intolerant for example. In a few years, your DNA information will help you make healthy food choices based on what you need as an individual.

The future of food is at our fingertips. Alberts is proud to be a pioneer in the food robotics market space and to collaborate with the other partners of the PERSFO project to make a healthy life the easiest for everyone.

3 ways COVID has shaped the world of personalised nutrition startups

Author: Mariette Abrahams CEO & Founder of Qina

It’s a well-worn cliche by now, but we’ll say it again: Covid has changed everything.

The further we move away from the early days of the pandemic, the clearer we see its long-term effects. As a market insights leader in the personalised nutrition & digital health space, Qina has witnessed how the impact of Covid-19 has rocked every corner of the estimated $8 billion industry.

Here are three of the most profound, disruptive ways in which the Coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the world of personalised nutrition startups.


 1 – Covid redefined our definitions of health & wellbeing

Especially during the lockdowns, Covid forced a sudden change in our notions of general health, wellbeing and self-care. Suddenly, the need to play the long game with our mental and physical health became much more evident. The startups who were quick to connect these dots for their customers and offer a solution have since established themselves as leaders of niches we didn’t know existed.

Excitingly, this groundswell has not only allowed innovative health businesses to find a market, but also to finally embrace and treat universal illnesses like stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation as they should have been all along – serious, but treatable mental health conditions.

If 2020 had a global motto, it would be the year where  ‘it’s OK not to be OK’.

Coaching for lifestyle and behaviour change, stress reduction plant-based bars MyAir and mindful eating app Mealshare are all examples of new micro-markets filling this space.


2 – Technology as the life raft in the Covid storm

When lockdowns made social contact impossible, technology held those bonds for us. In return, these norms paved the way for technology to finally take its place as a mainstay in every single aspect of our lives. The same goes for how we’ve since started and scaled businesses in this era. Technology, in essence, was left as the only reliable distribution model for any and all businesses if they wanted to stay alive without bricks and mortar.

In our space, this particular impact of Covid has finally put the ‘personalised’ in personalised nutrition. The future arrived 10 years early, which made age-old nutritional staples of food pyramids and less red meat less relevant to increasingly digital (especially mobile) audiences, who have since come to expect intuitive, entirely bespoke experiences at every swipe.

As a result, the personalisation of information, advice and content as a saleable commodity has become the new minimum to compete in this space. Investing in digital and data-driven systems will continue to be a priority for startups, entrepreneurs and health practitioners.


3 – Data & personalisation go hand in hand

Over the next decade, the primary driver of consumer-facing technology (and most others too, for that matter) will become entirely data-driven, if it isn’t already. As long as new startups are offering a data-driven service or product, they will perpetually benefit from their own customers’ data.

Simply put, Covid has enabled loyal customers to rally around products they love. In return, these customers provide an unending, constantly refreshing stream of data on their own buying behaviours and future demands, which savvy businesses respond to accordingly. It’s the perfect marriage, because data doesn’t lie, and the businesses who get the balance right will win big (particularly when catching the attention of  venture funding).

This seamless feedback loop between online users and businesses is the essence of personalisation. Personalised nutrition finds a particularly comfortable fit here, as an individual’s needs can be catered for according to their biological, genetic and lifestyle factors, quickly and efficiently.

The importance of maintaining this bond between customers/patients/employees and startups goes beyond just keeping first-line customers happy. According to a Deloitte report, personalised nutrition is not only a boon for businesses, but a leading contender in the battle against persistent global health challenges such as chronic diseases, malnutrition and obesity.


The Qina Insight

From nearly every perspective, Covid-19 has changed the world as we knew it. We’ll only understand the full implications of these shifts in decades to come, but an important clue is how startups have embraced technology, data and prided customer centricity to unprecedented levels.

But this is not likely to be a passing fad. In truth, all these industry shaping elements were in existence long before the first lockdowns in March 2020. Covid-19 has simply sped up what was already in store for our industry.

Amidst the uncertainty, we are relieved to know one thing for certain – the near future will remain to be a keen source of interest for Qina.