Anyone who has ever tried losing weight knows that calorie counting is hard, mundane work.
It’s that experience that led to the launch of Count’d, a healthy meal subscription app, this week. The app works by teaming up with restaurants and kitchens in the city to curate healthy, calorie-counted meal options. Brands on the app so far include Little Erth, Fitness Feedz and BR8 Kitchen.
Customers can subscribe to one, two or three healthy meals a day, with pre-scheduling possible for the week or month. The app automatically inputs calories, tracks your fitness journey, and suggests healthy meals depending on your requirements.
Count’d is the brainchild of long-term Dubai residents and friends Fadi Ghaly, Varun Kapur, and Ahmed Wasfie, who were looking for a way to revolutionise calorie-counting. Ghaly, the co-founder of Under500, a restaurant that offers meal and dessert options less than 500 calories, came up with the idea.
“I’ve always wanted to get into the meal subscription model. I’m a Fitbit user, and I found it a painful experience to manually input every calorie that’s consumed. That got me thinking: why not have an app that can provide the meal while automatically syncing calories consumed?”
It helps that many restaurants in the UAE already provide nutritional information about their dishes on menus. To ensure that the restaurants have their nutritional information listed correctly, Count’d audits all the recipes of restaurants it partners with. If a restaurant is not comfortable sharing their recipes, they get the recipes checked through a third party.
Users that sign up are asked a series of questions from their weight to fitness goals, and are then put on a plan that lists the calories required in a day. After filling out a section for allergies, they are recommended several meal plans such as balanced, low-carb, low-fat, vegan or keto.
The app takes choices into account and lists meals that are available, ensuring the calories add up to your daily requirement.
“There is a science to gaining or losing weight, and Count’d is basically a guide to that. It tracks your weight in the beginning, reminds you to stay hydrated and basically achieve your goal,” explains Ghaly.
Kapur, a venture capitalist, says it’s designed for busy, working professionals who don’t have the time to cook or even enter their calories manually on a daily basis. “There are a lot of fitness apps that require you to calculate that and it’s not sustainable. We’ve taken all that into account.”
The meals cost an average of Dh40 each, and residents are able to customise delivery time and location. There are more than 300 meals on the app so far, with the number growing.
Ghaly explains the app has benefits for the restaurants as well, thanks to the fact that orders have to be made the night before, with a cut-off of 10pm.
“We know that the pain point for restaurant operations is not knowing what orders they’re going to get in peak hours. Our main business operation is built around pre-scheduling. This allows restaurants to utlitise their kitchens during off peak hours.”
Kapur says they do not have high commissions or marketing fees, so that restaurants will work with them.
“The food delivery business is busy, but in the region it’s just getting started. Ordering through one’s mobile phone is starting to grow. And more than anything, people want to be healthy. That’s something that has really grown during the pandemic, health as a priority,” Kapur says.
It’s all part of their ultimate goal – to make “healthy eating easy”.
“The problem with a lot of the delivery apps these days is that you open them and you’re bombarded with pizzas and burgers and unhealthy food. You don’t know where to start,” Kapur says.
“We want people to hit their goals, be nutritionally content. It’s no secret that we have problems like obesity, diabetes ... a lot of that is because we don’t have time, it’s difficult, we’re good at procrastinating. Those are all barriers. We want to see a healthy population. We want to be a part of the movement that the UAE is taking so seriously.
While the app has launched only in Dubai (with an Abu Dhabi launch to happen soon), there are bigger plans on the table.
“We want to take over the UAE market, then expand to the GCC, Mena region and more. People are trying to get healthy and a healthy population is our overarching goal,” says Kapur.