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Pittsburgh's PHRQL takes nutrition to the grocery store

For those struggling with obesity, diabetes and other diet-related illnesses, the supermarket is ground zero for making healthy choices. Now PHRQL (pronounced “freckle”), a Pittsburgh startup, is growing thanks to software that makes it easier -- and potentially more profitable -- for grocery stores to offer on-site nutritional counseling.
 
PHRQL is an acronym for "Personal Health Recording for Quality of Life"; the company's core product is its Connect & Coach software, aimed at in-house supermarket dieticians. The software enables them to monitor and coach their patients. What’s more, it links to the supermarket’s point-of-sale systems, providing retailers with data about consumer eating and purchasing behavior, valuable for targeted promotions and marketing. It also facilitates claims to health insurers.
 
CEO and founder Paul Sandberg says the overall goal is to move nutrition education and counseling from hospitals and medical offices to community settings. And what is more practical and efficient than delivering those services right where people buy their food? 
 
The company was spun out in 2011 from a Carnegie Mellon research project in which Sandberg and three other students investigated patient-centered solutions to managing health care costs. The company began at AlphaLab and in 2012 gained its first customer, the Giant Eagle supermarket chain. Throughout 2013, PHRQL tested and refined its software.
 
Today that software is in use at 30 Giant Eagle stores and the company's new contracts – Sandberg declined to name them – will put it in 400 stores across 15 states by the end of this quarter.
 
Carnegie Mellon is an equity partner; PHRQL has also received investment from the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and continues to seek venture capital. It has seven full-time employees and Sandberg expects to add another three jobs this year.
 
Source: Paul Sandberg, PHRQL
Writer: Elise Vider
 
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