iPad cookbook

The iPad, displaying the latest recipe creation on the kitchen counter, has replaced the traditional cookbook, provided one can avoid spilling spaghetti sauce or splattering it with oil.  Even just weeks after its release in April 2010, the New York Times saw it “poised to be an indispensable tool” for the kitchen.  And now, augmented reality apps like Blippar allow consumers to create interactive recipe books by scanning products while in the store aisle.  From the first release of Betty Crocker’s Big Red in 1950, and thousands since, recipe-sharing has gone digital and mobile.

Always based on word-of-mouth, recipes on 2×4 index cards that were once traded between neighbors, at PTA meetings and from generation to generation are now shared, researched and reviewed online.  For instance, Google sees over one billion recipe-specific searches per month and both Google and Yahoo have their own recipe search engines.

The popularity of competitive cooking-shows like Top Chef and the Food Network has captivated an audience well beyond the traditional homemaker, targeted for decades by advertisers.  The folks tuning into these programs are the individuals who won’t try the new local restaurant without first checking reviews on Open Table and Yelp and those who tear out recipe ideas from waiting room magazines.

The enthusiast

For food brands, this creates the opportunity to reach and engage a broad segment of enthusiasts, those consumers who are passionate about food and simply love to cook.  Food and cooking, for them, is an experience to be enjoyed.  They list “cooking” under their hobbies & interests on their social profiles and talk about all things culinary with their friends. These customers can be the most valuable, most vocal and, in turn, most influential for brands.  Enthusiasts include moms, young singles and those “cooking for two” or “for picky eaters.”   But their needs and motivations are anything but the same, even within their social networks.  Therefore, tapping into the interest graph of these diverse enthusiasts holds more opportunity for food brands to create a richer, more compelling experience for customers.

Meat brands, for instance, want to engage those who love grilling with a passion, the kind of people  willing to shovel a path through snow just to get to their grill.  To help these grilling enthusiasts connect, persona-based filtering and sorting will go a long way. These grilling gurus should be able to easily find content from people like them, say, by checking “Grill Guru” to display hyper-relevant recipes and reviews. Taking it a step further, geographic information might be used to find people in similar climates, or a “My Fridge” app could be created to display only recipes that can be prepared with ingredients that users have on hand.

Enthusiasts also include those interested in or curious about the benefits of a particular diet, such as only drinking soy-milk or avoiding gluten all together.  While the core consumers for these products are those with health restrictions like lactose intolerance or Celiac Disease, the growing popularity in the lactose or gluten-free diets is attracting much broader swaths of consumers.  Not long ago, “gluten-free” was practically ignored by marketers.  But just last year, the New York Times declared it “the golden age of gluten-free,” highlighting the demographic appeal outside of those with dietary restrictions.  One can now find “gluten-free” labels on everything from cereal boxes to entire aisles in the grocery-store.   

Focus on pre-meal planning

Shopper marketers know the growing emphasis on pre-meal planning means consumers want both ideas and inspiration, whether it’s how to get kids to eat more vegetables or a desert that will impress their friends.  According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth, many of today’s shoppers make their choice of what to cook or bake before they reach the store.   How? A recent Bazaarvoice survey, conducted by Kelton Research, revealed that nearly three out of four consumers say it would be important to read user-generated content before making a decision about purchasing food.  Recipe research, either for a family dinner on a Tuesday night or a special occasion, helps consumers build their basket for the in-store visit.  For brands, this translates to incremental baseline sales.

Consumers are also buying online: 40% of online shoppers have purchased food items within the last six months, according to a 2011 study.

Social cookbooks

A growing number of brands and recipe sites are keeping up by asking their community to share their favorite recipes (and the stories behind them) with online social cookbooks.  Enthusiasts can share new ideas for cooking chicken or using condiments, like ranch dressing or ketchup. Through the creativity of their advocates, brands get to demonstrate the diversity of their products.

Perhaps the iPad as the new cookbook is most apparent with Millennials—consumers in their mid-teens to early 30s who have graduated in the digital age of Facebook and smartphones.  Our research reveals that more than half of this generation values the opinions of strangers on brand websites more than recommendations from family and friends.  What does this mean for one’s favorite recipe passed from generation to generation?  For food brands, it means creating a community where individuals with similar cooking interests and skill-levels can rate, review and share their opinions.  Helpfulness voting, Facebook sharing and community reviews will determine whether or not your creation is, in fact, really a masterpiece.  For the food enthusiast, the kitchen just got a whole lot bigger.

11 Responses to “Is the iPad the new cookbook?”

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  2. I’ve used both iPad and my iPhone for cooking and finding new breakfast ideas. I found it useful and easier to use than an old fashion Cookbook. I also like the function of easily exporting the Ingredient for ab easy shopping experience.

  3. Anonymous

    Excellent idea. Let’s hope lots of websites take it up!

  4. Very valid comments indeed!  Thanks so much for the helpful insights.  We really appreciate them.  You may like to hear that some of our clients are allowing their community to filter review content by “others like them.”  This can include attributes like cooking skill-level (professional, advanced, intermediate or novice), as well as a description “About Me.”  Our family, for instance, found this helpful getting some SuperBowl Party grilling ideas this past weekend.  Thanks again!

  5. Anonymous

    Haven’t had an anxiety attack yet about dropping it!  I’m a pretty experienced cook (note don’t say I’m a great one .. just one who has done quite a bit of it) so I tend to be able to assess a recipe by reading it, but yes I often scroll down to read the comments… but by then I’ve usually decided whether I want to cook it or not.  The comments tend not to be that enlightening, except to giggle smugly because someone didn’t appreciate the difference between table salt and sea salt so the dish was inedible.  What I’m really looking for are comments that help with the preparation of the dish, such as ‘watch out at step 2, if the heat is just a skerrick too high it will curdle, so have a bowl of iced water ready, dump the pan in there to cool it down fast and whisk like crazy to bring it back’ … but you rarely get anything that helpful.  It’s generally ‘made this for Sunday lunch and it was all eaten’ or even less useful ‘this looks like a great recipe, I must cook it’.

  6. Great perspective… I admit a big drawback of the “iPad as the cookbook” is the potential to drop it from the counter.  I am guilty of this on more than one occassion.  Curious, do you ever check out other opinions/reviews on those recipes?

  7. Thanks RedCarrie for the comments.  Pinterest has amazing potential for recipe sharing.  Just think how much paper we’re saving :)

  8. Anonymous

    Having tried to cook from iPad I find it impractical.  Sun streams into my kitchen so I can’t always read the screen.  The machine switches off just as I want to check how much topping needs to be added to the muffins and my hands are covered in cake batter from pushing the spoonfuls of cake batter into the muffin cases, so do I really want to stab and swipe my machine with cake battered fingers? Or put down the jug, wipe my hand and then push/swipe? The recipe is rarely on one screen, so half way through you have to swipe down or swipe up because the ingredients are listed at the top and the method is listed below  .. see above for cake batter fingers issue. And I do worry about getting grease or liquid on it.  If I want to cook from a recipe I’ve found through an online mag sub or searching a recipe db using my iPad, I print it.  It can get grubby, can be read in bright sunshine, I can read it all at once without having to touch it and it doesn’t switch itself off at the crucial moment.  Or as happened when I was cooking a seriously complicated chocolate cherry cake (which took SIX HOURS of effort),a paper print out doesn’t run out of battery.  That was fun. 

  9. Redcarrie

    Combine it with Pinterest and you are so right. Might finally be able to convince my grandma she can toss out her 30 cook books!

  10. DadCooks

    Mr. Dodenhoff has become a leading authority on the evolution of recipe sharing and the trend toward digital content.  Looking forward to his future insights.

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