Between finding a recipe for the perfect seasonal treat, sourcing ingredients and making magic happen in the kitchen to bring it all together, holiday cooking can be enough to make some amateur chefs look forward to the end of the season. And, even when a holiday feast isn’t on the menu, coming up with new, exciting recipes and finding the ingredients — and oven space — to bring them to life is no small task.
But, in recent years, cooks of any ability have gained access to a wealth of new recipes, tips and other cooking resources online. In a recent interview, Esmee Williams, vice president of strategy for the world’s largest cooking resource database, AllRecipes.com, explained how modern innovations have brought those resources to home cooks’ fingertips.
Williams said the site — which has grown to include mobile solutions, a monthly digital magazine and integrations with tools like Amazon’s Alexa, among other features — has emphasized the importance of data and technology since it launched 20 years ago. In fact, the company was among the first in the space to debut features like user reviews, user profiles and other tools.
“Behind the scenes, we’re very technology-focused,” Williams told PYMNTS. “Our vision is to be the most indispensable digital food and cooking resource. We really think of ourselves as a trusted ally for all things cooking and, to be that, we use technology to keep things as simple as possible for home cooks.”
Data-driven food discovery
AllRecipes rolled out in 1997, just ahead of internet ubiquity. At the time, many Americans were still just beginning to grasp how to use an email account, and just one-quarter of American households had an internet connection.
Even in those early days, though, the company emphasized the importance of tracking the data behind recipes, reviews and other information, Williams said. The initial site was built by a team of graduate students studying data collection and categorization. That team built a system to sort recipes and ingredients into thousands of categories, meaning consumers searching for meals with certain ingredients or features could easily find the items they sought.
“To the end user, a recipe on the site looks like just a recipe,” Williams said. “But we have more than 2,500 unique tags and classification terms that can be added to any recipe. We also have more than 60,000 unique ingredients that comprise our recipes, and we have teams of taxonomists who are helping to build sophisticated data structures to help us track how and when ingredients are used.”
That data has now evolved to help improve other features on the website.
For example, those tags and categories power AllRecipes.com’s shoppable recipes. The company partners with many large grocery stores around the U.S. so that when users view recipes on computers or mobile devices, they can simply click a button to add ingredients to their online shopping carts at many grocery stores. The feature also displays promotional offers for U.S. grocers based on shopper location, Williams explained, helping home cooks find the best deals on the items they need to complete a recipe.
“We’re able to capture all grocery offer details across the United States, across all the different zip codes, and then present hyper-local offers based on where a customer lives,” she said. “If you are a retailer or a brand who has partnered with us directly on a sponsored program, we surface that information first so that customers will definitely see those offers and are most likely to take advantage of them.”
AllRecipes has also invested in technology to help home cooks turn the ingredients they purchased online or in-store into a finished meal.
To do so, it partnered with Amazon to provide the first cooking skill for the company’s artificial intelligence (AI)-powered virtual assistant, Alexa. The integration enables Alexa to read AllRecipes’ recipes aloud when prompted by a user’s voice command.
Williams explained cooking skills are a particularly practical use case for virtual assistant software, because voice-enabled commands and assistance allows cooks to keep their food-covered hands on the cooking tasks — instead of on cookbooks or connected devices.
Most recently, AllRecipes worked with Amazon to add a visual component to its integrations with the newest Alexa-enabled device, the Amazon Echo Show. It contains a screen that can display photos or videos, adding a new dimension to AllRecipes’ cooking guides.
“When you’re in the kitchen, your hands are typically occupied,” Williams said. “You’re preparing ingredients, you’re pulling things out of the fridge, whatever it is, and while voice is fantastic, it’s harder to cook without visuals. Food is a very visual experience, so being able to add that component and let users do things like watch videos that show them how to do something, or see images of their recipe, was very valuable for us.”
With the visual skills in place, AllRecipies.com is turning its attention toward other tech-based initiatives, including integrations with Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices like smart refrigerators. Williams said it’s all to use technology to help home chefs find and cook new ingredients and meals as simply as possible.
“We want to connect home cooks with content and tools that help them find success simply,” she said. “And we take a lot of pride in using technology to do that.”
To download the November edition of the PYMNTS.com Omni Developer Report™, a Vantiv collaboration, click the button below…
About The Report
The PYMNTS.com Developer Report™, powered by Vantiv, provides the payments ecosystem with a view into how software developers are using new technologies to create innovative business opportunities and enable merchants to optimize the ways in which they engage with shoppers today. The developer community within the report is separated into three categories: Shopping and Payments, Operations and Marketing.
About The Report
The PYMNTS.com Omni Usage Report™, a Vantiv collaboration, features industry-spanning research and insights that arm retailers with data to make smarter decisions for enabling omnichannel commerce.