Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from one of RetailWire’s recent online discussions. Each business morning on RetailWire.com, retail industry execs get plugged in to the latest news and issues with key insights from a “BrainTrust” of retail industry experts.
The iFood Assistant from Kraft Foods now ranks among iPhone’s top 100 paid apps, and number three in the lifestyle category. Consumers have to pay a one-time 99-cent fee for the app, sit through ads and even provide Kraft with real-time selling data. But Advertising Age said the app has clearly caught on because it’s “actually useful.”
Launched in December, Kraft’s app promises “over 7,000 recipes at your fingertips,” browse-able by ingredients, meal type or prep time. The app also features step-by-step directions for making dishes, how-to videos with guides to portion sizes and knife skills, and a built-in shopping list. Users can also build their own mobile recipe box of their favorite recipes. With navigation similar to an iPod, the app also features a “recipe of the day” to inspire aspiring cooks.
“When we look at consumers, we think that they’re busy and they’re looking for food-planning tools that can make their lives easier,” Ed Kaczmarek, Director-Innovation, new services at Kraft, told Advertising Age. “We developed iFood Assistant as a downloadable app so they can use it anytime and anywhere.”
Not surprisingly, most recipes feature Kraft products. Advertising Age noted that a recently-featured recipe for “chicken cacciatore pronto” called for Kraft Light Zesty Italian dressing, chicken thighs, garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, red peppers, whole-wheat spaghetti, Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese and Kraft 2% Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese.
Kraft is running ads throughout the app, some before the instructional videos and some with searches. Since users sign onto Kraft Foods before downloading recipes and shopping lists, Kraft also gains information about which recipes are most popular and which ingredients are most used. The company also gains insight into when and how consumers shop.
“In terms of being paid, we think it’s a tremendous value for 99 cents,” Kaczmarek said. “For the price of a song, we’re delivering a robust offering, and any upgrade with more services and content will be free to the consumer.”
According to Advertising Age, The App Store’s 83 reviews were mixed. One reviewer exclaimed, “Not good at all!” while another said, “Wow … best 99 cents spent.” One reviewer said, “I have used Kraft online and this is just as good, plus there are more features,” but lamented that the shopping lists weren’t comprehensive enough. Another wrote, “I’ve never really cooked a lot but these recipes make me feel like Rachael Ray in the kitchen! Thanks Kraft!”
Managing editor Tom Ryan noted that the number one lifestyle app at App Store is Grocery iQ, a shopping organizer preloaded with over 130,000 items to enable shoppers to quickly view items by brand and size. Shoppers can sort the list by aisle, customize item sizes, and add notes. It also has a history of past purchases. One touted advantage is being able to e-mail the shopping list to another family member. The app costs $4.50.
RetailWire’s BrainTrust panelists saw significant potential in the app. “The fact that people are willing to pay for the Kraft application speaks volumes,” said David Dorf, Director of Technology Strategy, Oracle Retail. “[iPhone apps] are a great way to connect with customers.”
The innovation shouldn’t stop at mobile, says one analyst. “This is not about adding an application to a mobile device,” says Joel Warady, Principal, Joel Warady Group. “Companies have to stop thinking about devices as being mobile, or desktop, etc. Instead, companies have to think about connecting with people in the way in which they live, and the fact that people live in a transient, mobile world helps define the new ways in which companies need to connect.”
“The lesson here for retailers and manufacturers is to think about in-store relevance in the way consumers move and shop using technology–which may not always be the same thing as building a network the retailer controls or creating an in store kiosk only featuring brands that pony up trade promotion dollars,” added Lisa Bradner, Senior Analyst with Forrester Research.
Rachel Magni, director of consumer insights, WD Partners, is already thinking about the future. “When will the technology be prepared to answer ‘in which aisles will I find these items?’ ‘Which ones are on sale?’ ‘How much will it cost me in total to make this meal?’ What if, better yet, the app could tell you that you can find all of the items needed to make this Kraft meal on the end cap of aisle 5? Now that’s something a customer could get excited about!”