A survey of the most popular food & drinks apps on iTunes

Last week, we had a product planning session at Gojee. To prepare for it, I went through a comparable analysis of our competitors in the Food & Drinks section of the App Store.

Comparable Analysis is a type of spreadsheet analysis that we did often in my banking days. Each row represents a company, and each column a data point that you want to compare between a set of companies (or ‘comps’).

The trick to a good comparable analysis is in selecting the right comps. For Gojee, I had to find good food apps. So I selected the top 5 iPhone and iPad apps in each of Apple’s store rankings (by Free Downloads, by Paid Downloads, by Grossing $s). I added in a few other apps based on my team’s suggestion for a total of 32 comps.

The whole exercise involved:

  1. selecting the apps to analyze
  2. downloading them
  3. playing with them
  4. tallying the data points in a Google Doc

The whole exercise took about 6 hours, but was tremendously helpful in giving the entire team some insights on where we stood against our competitors.

What We Learned

General

1. People consume food content in a variety of ways.  Top 5 rankings apps are all very different.  Some ways apps differentiate themselves:

  • Source of Content: Original Content, User Generated Content, Aggregators, Hybrid
  • Media: Video, Pictures, Text
  • Monetization: Paid App, Subscription, In-App Purchases, Ads
  • Cooking Process Focus: Recipe Discovery, Recipe Selection, Recipe Preparation/Cooking
  • Design: Raw, Functional Focus, Style Focus

2. Original content and UGC apps are most common in the space:

  • 16/32 had original content (Food Network)
  • 10/32 had user-generated content (Allrecipes)
  • 4/32 are aggregators (Gojee & Yummly)
  • the rest were a hybrid.

3. 75%+ of the top apps had tools to help the user through the full cooking process (discovery, selection, preparation)

4. Quality/Convenience over Quantity
There was no correlation between number of recipes an app had and its rankings in the store.  Only a few had over 10k+ recipes.  Allrecipes differentiated itself by having the most recipes.  No one tries to claim number 2.

5. Only 2/32 apps required logging in

6. Only 2/32 apps had some form of personalization, in general apps were used as a general source of information.

iPhone
1. The top rankings apps competed heavily on different ways of helping people in the recipe discovery process, with varying functionalities tied to the preparation process

2. Most common way free apps monetized was through ads.  Most common way paid apps monetized was through in-app payment.

3. Out of apps with high rankings in the store, only Jamie Oliver’s app has videos (how-tos).

iPad
1. The highest grossing iPad apps are all magazines, NOT paid apps

2. The most common way free apps monetized was through in-app purchases of subscriptions, content, or another app.

3. Fully functional
Top ranking apps by downloads (paid or free) all had functionalities that made them Kitchen companions that covered the full spectrum of the cooking process (recipe discovery, selection, and meal preparation)

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As for how all of this applies to Gojee, we found we are one of the strongest apps for recipe discovery and general design.  We also have work to do on the recipe selection and meal preparation process.

The comparisons also allowed us to evaluate how video is being leveraged in food apps. It is an area that we feel is the future as LTE proliferates.  The lack of a dominant food video app in the space is a sign of opportunity and a void that needs to be filled.

Having a disciplined method to evaluate the competition is crucial to building a successful product in a crowded market place.

If you are building a product and want to do your own comparable product analysis, you can take a look at the sample google doc I used here.

 

 

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