Alex Hutchinson, a 21-year-old college senior, has a prizewinning idea for a smartphone app that transforms most regular recipes into gluten-free dishes.
His “Gluten Free Converter” app grabbed the judges’ attention at the Elevator Pitch Competition at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Conference in Chicago last month. Aspiring college innovators each have 90 seconds – the approximate length of an elevator ride – to pitch their business proposal.
Though the app is still in design stages, once completed it will automatically substitute ingredients and adjust cooking procedures to make gluten-free cooking much easier.
Hutchinson received an honorable mention for his idea, beating out more than 100 other young entrepreneurs and earning a $500 cash prize to patent Gluten Free Converter.
He says the app will alleviate “doubt and insecurity” for those cooking gluten free. It’s the perfect tool for those who have been recently diagnosed, family members who need to change their cooking habits and anyone following the diet, according to Hutchinson. He notes that home cooking is the best way to guarantee a contamination-free environment.
“Many recently diagnosed with celiac disease [think] that this lifestyle change means the elimination of many foods that they enjoy,” Hutchinson says. “However this app will let them keep all the meals in their diet, just converted into a safe, gluten-free alternative.”
As more young people turn to technology in the kitchen, smartphone cooking is a rising trend among gluten-free diners of all ages.
“The great thing about the app is its universal appeal,” Hutchinson says. “It is for anyone who wants to start cooking gluten free for any reason. However, the popularity of smart phones with younger people makes them more adventurous in trying new things with apps. So I believe the exposure to this demographic will be especially appealing.”
A marketing major at Southern Illinois University, Hutchinson knows the challenge of gluten-free cooking first hand. He was diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 4 along with his father and brother. He’s no stranger to entrepreneurship either. Four years ago he founded a landscape construction company and plans to use the profits to attend law school.
The judges praised the idea and emphasized the importance of this emerging industry. They also suggested that Hutchinson market toward gluten-free companies for sponsors and advertising.
Since placing in the competition Hutchinson has contacted several app software developers and marketing agents to make the smartphone app a reality. He hopes to offer the product across all digital platforms in the mainstream market.
“I plan to revolutionize the gluten-free dining experience for anyone looking to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle, entertain for others or simply try [living] gluten free,” he says. “I hope to change the perspective that gluten-free cooking is a difficult routine for a niche market, but rather a new trend of eating that can appeal to anyone.”