Students partner with business to launch iPhone app, highlight Wisconsin-made products

February 23, 2011

What if you could enter a grocery store, and with the tap of your finger, determine which products were made in your state? Thanks to three UW-Madison graduate students and their partnership with a local grocery store, you now can.

SnowShoeFood LLC and Fresh Madison Market, 703 University Ave., launched the True Local iPhone application Wednesday on the first anniversary of the downtown grocery store. The "app," developed by SnowShoe's Claus Moberg, Jami Morton, and Matt Luedke, will allow customers to use the cameras on their iPhones to scan the bar code on any product in the store to determine whether the food item is produced in Wisconsin, and if not, whether local alternatives are available. The app will also display interactive pages that inform customers about Wisconsin-based food manufacturers and allow access to exclusive coupons for local food items.

"Our hope is that we can increase the number of Wisconsin-made products sold at Fresh Madison Market by making it easier for customers to identify foods that are made in Wisconsin, educating them about these locally-produced brands, and by giving them financial incentives to give these local products a try," says Moberg, SnowShoe's CEO.

Moberg, Morton and Luedke formed SnowShoeFood one year ago when they were competitors in the 2010 Climate Leadership Challenge, a UW-Madison student innovation competition hosted by the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. The competition calls for innovative solutions to the causes or impacts of climate change.

The SnowShoe team, which hails from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, submitted a proposal for a smartphone app that could calculate the carbon footprint of groceries so customers could minimize the climate impact of their purchases. The team won a $15,000 innovation prize and founded their company.

While continuing to develop their prize-winning app, the students have developed the True Local app in collaboration with Fresh Madison Market owner Jeff Maurer, who notes that his customer base tends to be pro-local and environmentally conscious as well as tech-savvy. The app went live Wednesday at an all-day launch party as part of Fresh Market's True Local campaign that focuses on highlighting Wisconsin-made products.

Moberg explains that while the True Local app provides value and positive impacts on the environment and economy, it is also a step down the path of development for the carbon footprint app that earned the team a Climate Leadership Challenge prize.

"We're using this app to test out much of the code and database that will be required to launch the carbon footprint app," says Moberg.

"We're extremely excited to see how the True Local app will be received by Fresh Madison Market's customers. It will be interesting to see the impact that is made when you give customers access to food information that they wouldn't otherwise have while they are shopping in the grocery store."

Find more information about the app.