Europe’s Biggest Product Database CodeCheck To Expand To US

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With more than 39 million products listed, CodeCheck is Europe’s biggest product database. We spoke to Franziska Grammes to find out about the startup's next steps:

How would you describe CodeCheck in a few words?

CodeCheck is a barcode-scanner app that helps users to detect harmful or unwanted ingredients in food or cosmetics. To achieve this, we team up with big NGOs and make their ratings accessible easily. Thereby CodeCheck empowers people to make informed, safe, healthy, and sustainable choices.

What inspired you to create the platform? How did it all start?

The idea of CodeCheck was actually born more than 20 years ago. Back then our Swiss founder Roman Bleichenbacher started wondering on which information we actually base our buying decisions and couldn’t find any profound information about ingredients. This is how it all started. It soon enough transformed into a web-based database, where Swiss consumers could collect, edit and complete product information.

In 2013, the CodeCheck AG was founded in Zurich (CH), and one year later the first financing round was successfully closed, enabling us to conquer the entire German-speaking area. CodeCheck built regional offices in Sofia and Berlin, redesigned the app and website and came up with its now well-known rating circle. With currently more than 39 million products, CodeCheck is proud to be Europe’s biggest product database.

Now that you have taken over the DACK region, what other markets do you plan on entering next?

We are planning to launch CodeCheck on the US market later this summer. This is, of course, a major challenge for the whole team as we not only have to translate the whole app and adjust its information for the US market but also have to integrate thousands of new products into our database.

The competition in the food industry is fierce, with more companies joining the party every day. What makes CodeCheck stand out of the crowd? What is the key differentiator?

CodeCheck pursues a more holistic approach than other apps who rate foods or cosmetics – we rate almost all kinds of products that could (through consumption) have an influence on health, additionally we also include the environmental dimension. Besides specific information for people with intolerances, allergies or vegans we also offer information for environmentally conscious people who want to avoid microbeads or palm oil.

In recent years, the awareness of living a healthy lifestyle has risen significantly. In what ways do you think this trend will further influence us and impact our lives?

People indeed want to know if a product is safe, ecological, healthy and if it fits their lifestyle. This is a worldwide development, quite regardless of language and country of origin and companies will have to act on it.

What’s the most considerable pivoting maneuver that the team has undertaken throughout the journey so far?

The greatest technical challenge we’ve had to overcome was to translate packaging information about gluten or lactose and communicate this in a clear and comprehensible way to our users. For that, we worked with specialists and people affected by intolerances before translating this logic into complex algorithms.

What is the biggest challenge that the company has faced?

We are actually facing big challenges every day: keeping the 39 million products strong database up to date is one of them. Engaging our community and build strong relations with them is another. Another one would be to work with a transnational team that is growing bigger and bigger.

What is the most memorable moment throughout the history of CodeCheck?

That was actually the launch in Germany in the beginning of 2016. That was a big step for us because until then CodeCheck was only available in Switzerland. Now, we want to enter the US market. CodeCheck actually turned from a small non-profit project into a profitable business idea with the potential to help users worldwide in finding better products.

If there is one thing you could wish for in improving the European startup ecosystem – what would it be?

It is not easy to get funding for a company with the focus on changing how people consume (which is not always aligned with the interests of advertising customers). There should be more support for ideas like that.

Lastly, what’s one piece of advice you can give to fellow founders for their startup?

Do not let yourselves be discouraged. At our beginnings, CodeCheck founder Roman Bleichenbacher presented his idea for CodeCheck to his professors while he was still a student. They told him that a database where consumers could collect product information would never work. Today CodeCheck is one of the most successful Lifestyle-Apps in the German-speaking area, with more than 4 million downloads and 39 million products in its database.



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