Modern consumers value speed and convenience when making purchases, whether it’s airline tickets, takeout food or the ingredients for recipes to their favorite dishes. With the use of shoppable recipe platforms, home cooks can find and purchase the recipe ingredients they need in one step, buying groceries in an online shopping cart for 2-hour pickup or delivery. For almost 92% of Americans, deciding what’s for dinner happens same day, with little to no planning, so shoppable recipes can be of great assistance by helping consumers make convenient, fast and accurate purchases of the ingredients they need.
However, as grocery retailers increasingly rely on shoppable recipes to drive online grocery sales, they must ensure that their platform provider has a solution where accuracy, exception handling and variations in ingredients are all managed and checked by experts in the recipe industry. Ed Levine, the founder of Serious Eats, who built one of the first and most successful food sites, said accuracy is essential to consumer satisfaction.
“My readers trust me to help them execute a great meal, so if I provide a tool that delivers the groceries they need to their door on the same day they plan to cook, all of the ingredients better be right,” Levine said.
Like many consumer categories that have been transformed by brands leveraging digital applications, the grocery industry can capitalize on the rise of shoppable recipe platforms. But, not all applications, or recipes, are created equal, according to Cliff Sharples, the co-founder of Fexy, a content-driven technology company offering one of the leading shoppable recipes platform called Relish.
“For a home cook trying to make a specific recipe, a mistake in getting the correct ingredients can be frustrating and costly,” he said. “Not being able to get all of the ingredients means dinner doesn’t make it to the table, which causes a home cook to be hesitant to try online grocery shopping again in the future.”
Many of the shoppable recipes solutions available today rely on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to read online recipe pages on the fly, mapping ingredients to products on grocery store shelves in real-time. This approach enables the technology to be deployed across hundreds of thousands of recipes quickly, regardless of accuracy or recipe quality. However, recipe ingredients are extremely complex, open to interpretation, and can vary widely depending on the intentions of the chef or recipe developer that originally wrote it.
In addition, recipe writers use several descriptions and representations of the same item in a grocery store. For example, an onion might be expressed in multiple ways: one cup of diced onions, one cup of minced onions, one medium-sized onion, one cup of chopped onions or one cup of sliced onions. A “cup” of onions in each of these cases represents a different volume of onions, which translates to different numbers of onions purchased based on the number of servings. Additionally, other nuances can result in non-sensical translations on the shopping list, according to Sharples.
“We’ve seen some sites take a pound of salmon and translate it into frozen salmon fish sticks,” he said. “With so many possibilities for mistakes, it’s essential that skilled food professionals and recipe developers ensure accuracy. Our mission with Relish is to reduce any friction associated with home cooks trying to cook a great meal, not create problems that will end in frustration.”
At Fexy, the Relish team marries technologists with food experts, to leverage the best of AI and Human Intelligence (HI) to make the consumer experience seamless. The management team originally built AllRecipes into the world’s largest digital food site, selling the company to Meredith Corporation in 2013. Fexy launched in 2015, and the team is building Relish by partnering with dozens of high-quality recipe sites.
The Relish Platform initially maps ingredients to products in an e-commerce grocery offering by machine learning and heuristics-based systems. Then, recipe experts check for the many nuances of ingredient listings including exceptions, substitute ingredients, optional ingredients and sub-recipes associated with a primary recipe. This process not only catches errors and fixes them before they go live, but also feeds back into the heuristics that make the AI more intelligent for future mapping.
“At Fexy, we own and operate James Beard award-winning sites and have a team of best-selling cookbook authors,” Sharples said. “Not only do we have world-class technologists on staff but we also have team members who are leaders in the culinary world. Our unique strategy of combining AI and HI enables us to create a breakthrough technology that can truly help people achieve their daily cooking goals, needs and desires.”