iPhone app Can I Eat It? - designed by Wollaton man - wins national award
IF you don't know your Pinot Grigio from your Periquita, the supermarket wine aisle can be like a maze.
But navigating your way out without picking up a bottle of dodgy plonk is being made easier by a Wollaton food and drink expert's gadget which places the knowledge of a connoisseur in your palm.
The Can I Eat It? iPhone application, made by Martin Isark, has now won a national accolade – being named in the Sunday Times' 500 best apps list.
It allows users to scan food and drink product barcodes to reveal dietary information – and Martin's tasting notes for the product.
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Martin, who was born in Shropshire but moved to Wollaton in 1990 with his partner, Anne, said: "If you scan a product it gives you information – what it tastes like, whether it is suitable for vegetarians or lactose intolerance," Martin said.
"It's got tasting notes on most of the drinks in the country. It's giving honest, helpful tasting notes to make the right choices."
On the £1.99 app's recognition, he added: "It's a nice feeling and it gives you that drive to carry on. People are using it quite a lot and we have quite a high retention rate. It's number four in the food apps chart. It's been very difficult but it is quite rewarding when you are recognised and going in the right direction."
The Can I Eat It? app has tens of thousands of food and drink products from a wide variety of supermarkets and allows users to check if a product is gluten free, lactose free, low fat, low salt, low sugar or vegetarian.
The app also enables users to set a personal guideline daily amount for every product.
Despite having launched the app in June 2011, Martin says work is not yet finished.
"The database continually improves with time. It's not finished," he said. "We work hard at it every day. It keeps getting bigger every day."
Martin started his career as a taster, working for supermarkets, publications and vineyards. After being commissioned to write a wine review for a Lincolnshire magazine, he began to write about food and drink for the national papers on a regular basis.
Martin, whose daughter Jasmine, 13, goes to Trent College in Long Eaton, said: "I gave them my day rate, a bill for £250. They said we only pay £25 but we suggest you should be writing for a national newspaper. I sent if off and it started from there."
In his role as a taster, Martin has had up to 15,000 products sent to him in a year. He said: "I used to have 1,000 bottles of champagne."
Martin has also written the Winter and Summer Wine Guides and the Supermarket Own Brand Guide, which evaluates the best food and drink.
And he's not stopping there.
He said: "The idea is to eventually have spin-offs that tap into the database."
With the rise of smartphones and portable devices, apps have become a way of life for millions of people. Apple users alone downloaded nearly 20 billion apps last year.
The Sunday Times list was compiled by experienced reviewers and experts.
More details at www.canieatit.co.uk.