Business Strategy

The danger of being comfortable: Food

Plenty of verticals think that they are immune from disruption because of the product or service that they offer. Things that are considered basic needs are often overlooked when it comes to technology innovation because they’re second nature to us. Consider food. We all have to eat, and outside of some cool new “hardware” to offer new ways to cook food, it seemed like our food would never be revolutionized by mobile technology.

Two major players arrived in 2012 and changed the way millions of people cook at home. Blue Apron and Plated both launched in 2012 with the idea of delivering pre-measured ingredients for specific recipes directly to homes. Their menus cater to those who enjoy cooking and have a refined palate, but can also help aspiring foodies step up their cooking game. Both companies have gone through four rounds of funding, with Blue Apron raising $193 million while Plated has raised $56 million. With Blue Apron and Plated making gourmet cooking accessible to people who enjoy cooking but hate grocery shopping, you can count on this business model sticking around.

On a broader level, online grocery ordering and doorstep delivery is also increasing in popularity thanks to services like AmazonFresh and Instacart. AmazonFresh has been around since 2007 but in very localized markets. Instacart is a newer competitor, coming on the scene in 2012, but has expanded to notably more cities than AmazonFresh has. Both Instacart and AmazonFresh have truly disrupted the grocery store vertical, sourcing food from their own warehouses instead of sending shoppers to retail grocery stores for fulfillment. Ordering groceries online at whatever time is convenient and then scheduling a delivery time caters to busy professionals and families in a way that traditional grocery stores never could.

Once the food arrives in the kitchen, though, the big question is what to make for dinner. AllRecipes was the first player in this field, launching their web database of recipes, searchable by ingredient, all the way back in 1997. There were certainly fewer available recipes online 18 years ago before food blogging took off, but AllRecipes had the right idea of giving cooks a more extensive recipe database than the collection of written recipes they may have at home. To keep up with the changing food preparation landscape, AllRecipes now partners with Instacart to put the ingredients from your chosen recipe into your cart for Instacart delivery.

Recipe creation for mass distribution used to be restricted to publishing companies with test kitchens, women’s clubs, and food brands. Food blogger is now a legitimate job, and people can make a livable wage from their recipe creations. Helping these bloggers dramatically is Pinterest, which for many people has become the modern version of the cookbook. Pinterest caters to all kinds of lifestyle topics, but the boost it offers to the cooking market is impressive. Recipes with beautiful photography, delicious descriptions, and easy to follow instructions easily get repinned thousands of times, which drives far more traffic to food bloggers’ sites than previous methods of marketing and reaches a much more diverse market than printed cookbooks did.

For those who prefer to not cook and would rather eat out, technology has made it far easier to find a great restaurant and even get a table. Thanks to review apps like Yelp, locals and tourists alike are only a couple taps away from finding the hottest place to eat in their current location. Yelp puts additional pressure on restaurants to consistently offer high quality food and high quality service because technology has made everyone a reviewer, not just those employed as food critics for publications.

OpenTable has made some incredible innovations in the restaurant space, too. With a centralized app, restaurant-goers can snag a reservation without ever calling ahead, and some restaurants are even supporting paying the bill after a meal with OpenTable and Apple Pay. The beauty of OpenTable is that it is a solution any restaurant can adopt and, consequently, reach new customers simply by showing up in OpenTable’s search.

From grocery delivery to food preparation to dining out, the way we decide what to eat has changed drastically due to innovation in technology. While our food itself may not be connected to the internet, we manage much of the experience digitally. If you’re in the food industry and have an idea to further revolutionize how the masses eat, let’s chat. We would love to help with your idea.

By Emily Hart