What’s for dinner?

It’s a question that millions ask every day.

Hoping to provide consumers with an easy and quick answer online recipe company Yummly and online grocery ordering service Instacart earlier this year partnered  to offer a service that lets consumers find recipe for a meal and get the ingredients delivered to their doorstep within an hour.

To start, the companies linked their iPhones apps to each other. Over three months, Yummly and Instacart together created an algorithm that can match the ingredients a recipe calls for to the grocery products on the Instacart app.

“It was a breakthrough in solving the pain points of the eternal question, ‘What’s for dinner?’” says Jaime Hennessey, head of growth partnerships and marketing at Instacart.


A consumer browsing recipes on the Yummly iPhone app who decides she wants to make sloppy joes, can select a button at the bottom of the recipe that reads, “Add to shopping list.” Then, if the consumer has the Instacart app, she is automatically directed to her shopping list page on the Instacart app with all of that recipe’s ingredients added to her cart. She still can add or remove items and change the quantities. Regardless of what the recipe calls for, all the quantities are defaulted to one.

Instacart also incorporates upselling, for example, by offering a more expensive brand or adding the option to switch to organic vegetables. The shopper can remove the Worcester sauce in her cart, upgrade her beef to 96% lean and double the quantity of buns she needs, for example. If she doesn’t have the Instacart app she is taken to the iPhone’s app store to download the app.

Once the order is placed, she can choose a one-hour window to have the groceries delivered to her door.

“You have a recipe that shows up on your Yummly home feed, click a button to add to your shopping list and you could have those ingredients in an hour, making it a lot simpler to cook at home,” says Brian Witlin, Yummly’s chief operating officer

Since the launch, Instacart says it has seen a dramatic increase in app downloads and new registered app users, Hennessey says, but declines to provide specifics. 10% of Yummly’s U.S. iPhone shopping list users are clicking on the button to check out with Instacart, Witlin says.


Typically, Yummly generates revenue through advertisements and promoted recipes that call for certain brands.

“We see (Instacart) as our e-commerce grocery partner,” Witlin says.

“Yummly is driving a lot of traffic to Instacart. We have a massive audience we are tapping into and bringing those people awareness of Instacart,” he adds.  

Yummly’s consumers are increasingly mobile, Witlin says, as more than half of its site traffic is from a mobile device. The company is also seeing a surge in its app use, which Witlin attributes to a tech-savvy millennial audience that is looking for inspiration on what to cook and exploring their culinary interests.

While the mobile site does contribute to Instacart’s traffic, the majority of consumers visit Instracart from a desktop, Hennessey says. The new offering, however, is driving more Instacart app downloads for the company.  


Currently the feature only works with iPhones but the companies are working on linking their Android apps soon? iPhones account 25% of Yummly’s traffic, Witlin says. Yummly sends push notifications to its app users to remind them they have the app.

“The last 18 months have been a mobile sprint,” Witlin says. “Instacart is the tip of iceberg in what we are thinking in relation to commerce.”

The deal between Instacart and Yummly echoes what one online grocer Peapod is working on. Speaking at the IRCE Digital Design Show in March, Peapod founder and chief technology officer Thomas Parkinson said it is currently working on building connections with food-related apps such as recipe or meal planning apps via an application programming interface, or API, that will enable shoppers to go from reading a recipe to buying all the ingredients for it though Peapod in a few steps. The feature is part of its recent relaunch of its 15-year old site that was built on an ATG e-commerce platform provider (ATG is owned by Oracle Corp.)

The new site, which took about a year to develop, uses Google Inc.’s Angular open-source application framework to create a site that combines both responsive and adaptive design. With adaptive design, the retailer’s server detects the device the consumer is using and only sends down the elements the retailer wants to show on that screen. Compared with responsive design, adaptive design has the advantage of sending less data to the device—thus increasing download speed–allows Peapod to more easily design pages for specific devices, and does not require any changes to the desktop site.



Follow mobile business journalist April Dahlquist, associate editor, mobile, at Mobile Strategies 360, @Mobile360April

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