business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

After 15 years, and 15 billion recipes viewed online, the folks at are out with a survey illustrating how the internet and mobile technology have dramatically changed the way Americans shop and cook for their families.

And no, that 15 billion is not a typo., which bills itself as the world’s No. 1 digital food brand, also claims its 25 million home cooks have uploaded, saved or shared nearly 200 million pieces of content, downloaded 14 million apps and created 1,000 original videos in a community that encompasses 22 countries and 11 languages. Not bad for a site begun in 1997 by five graduate anthropology students in Seattle with a shared love of cookies.

In honor of its anniversary, returned to the questions posed by a 1997 survey and produced a new report, "The Measuring Cup: What American Families Are Eating 1997-2012 Then and Now." Granted, the 2,500 respondents to a survey sponsored by an online recipe site are biased toward that behavior, but the results are nonetheless worth noting and analyzing.

Here a some of the highlights:

Use of recipe websites as the #1 resource for cooking has surged 207% since 1999.

The mobile phone as a kitchen companion is one of the most significant changes over the past 15 years. More than one-third of the online cooks use smartphones to look up recipes, 23% do so while in a store, some 18% use smartphones to create shopping lists and 16% to redeem digital coupons.

The top ingredient search term in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia is – chicken. (Cookies and meatloaf hold the second and third spots in the U.S.)

In 1999, when the average median household income was up 10%, only 3% of home cooks reported cost as the hardest part of getting dinner on the table. Today cost has increased 243%.

Cooks look for how-to videos to accompany recipes, and see such videos as replacing learning to cook from parents and family members.

The future is digital – the overwhelming majority of those surveyed see menu planning and shopping going increasingly digital and expect to redeem coupons, order groceries and pay all with their mobile device.

Not surprisingly in today’s more health conscious era, 58% of home cooks surveyed said they chose recipes where they can use organic and natural ingredients, up 66% since 1999. But there is a disconnect between those responses and the Allrecipes’ Top 15 recipes of All-Time, which were far from low-fat and healthy. Leading off the list were World’s Best Lasagna, Banana Banana Bread, Good Old-Fashioned Pancakes, Easy Sugar Cookies and Awesome Slow Cooker Pot Roast.

What is the lesson here for retailers, marketers and service providers? What started with a recipe for a Neapolitan cookie capitalized on shared interest and created a “community” of home cooks proud to wear that label and share their recipes. The site also kept up with technology, as evidenced by Dinner Spinner App for iPhone and Android, which was just upgraded to include Grocery Scanner feature. It allows shoppers to scan grocery barcodes directly from a smartphone to find recipes, add items to shopping lists or save items in a scan history, creating a “virtual pantry” to keep track of items at home.

All in all, a recipe for success.

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