This is part of a series of blog posts on decisions we’ve made in the course of business, to provide some insight into our business and product development process. Posts are not chronological. This post examines decisions around why Nima has one-time use capsules.

Nima’s One-Time Use Capsules

One of the first questions people ask us when they hear about Nima is “how does it work?” We typically offer up a narrative that follows the diagram below: you take a sample of food, put that in our capsule, twist the lid, put the capsule in the device and wait two minutes. 


At this point, people generally want to know more about the capsules. How much food to use? What do they do with the capsule when they are finished? Why do they need a new one every time?

We generally quickly dispense with the first two (a small amount, about a ¼ teaspoon; toss it) and then have to answer the second one: why do they need to use a new capsule every time?

There are several reasons we have for using a fresh capsule every time. In an ideal world, you’d be able to look at your food and just know if it contains allergens. When you’re looking for 20 parts per million, just eyeballing it isn’t going to work. You need some serious chemistry (as we explained in a previous One Decision post). You also have to make certain the capsule itself is free of cross-contamination so you can accurately assess each sample.

It’s this second part that gave us pause. How could we ensure that the capsules would be clear of cross-contamination for reuse? Our team tried taking capsules of food we had spiked with gluten and then attempted to clean them for re-use. The problem is that 20 parts per million is a VERY tiny amount. We’re talking look under a microscope tiny. (See examples of 20ppm at the end of this post.) So guess what, if you were in a restaurant and just went to wash the capsule out, that wouldn’t work. We found that the only way to get things clean were to use things available in our lab, which you might not be carrying around in your pocket. If you tested one item that had a result showing it had gluten, all your subsequent ones would look contaminated, like it or not.

So that’s reason one. Second, we want each sample of food to stand on its own. This way, each time you use a capsule, you’ll know what you tested. You can put samples of more than one food in the capsule, but you won’t know which food was the one that is contaminated. If you test each food on a plate, you’ll know which result goes with which item.

As a result of thinking about how someone would use Nima and how it would work in the real world, we designed our device to take advantage of the chemistry while reducing steps for you. You don’t have to grind food up, put it in a solution and then test it. Once you’ve closed the lid on the capsule and put it in the device, you’ve done all your need to do, which means the chemistry has done its work and the capsule can’t be used again.

This process also means that every test is fresh, and every food is given their fair chance to prove they are truly free to be eaten by you! The disposable capsules ensure an accurate result every test and minimize false negatives, so you can enjoy even more foods, which is our ultimate goal.

How much is 20ppm?

* A graphic of parts per million and parts per billion is down the page

* A description of how much is 20 parts per million by The Gluten Free Dietitian.