Food Mobile App Industry reflection paper


This report is the first of four parts when it comes to a broader proposal. The proposal is for a mobile application for smartphones and tablets that is going to be called Pocket Chef. That application will allow someone to input various foods that are in the refrigerator or pantry of a homeowner. Those base ingredients are then synthesized and analyzed. The recipes that can be crafted using those ingredients are then supplied to the user. The industry code for this application, more commonly known as the NAICS code, shall be 722330. That code is for mobile food services. Before getting into more of the particulars of this application, how it will be crafted, how it will be managed and how it will otherwise come to exist and function, there will first be a focus on the wider industry in question. The questions that will be answered include when the relevant genre emerged, when the genre started, how useful or “essential” the applications and services are held to be, how large the genre has become, how many users are currently in the relevant paradigm, the forecasting that exists when it comes to the future and the overall sales volume that exists, both historical and presently. A small collection of charts and graphs will be used to drive home and explain the statistics and facets of the industry. The sources used in this report will be scholarly or otherwise reputable in nature.

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Before getting into the details noted in the introduction, it is important to note that the food service mobile app industry is rather expansive and varied. It can range from the apps of particular restaurants to the apps of delivery services of facilitators such as GrubHub, UberEats and so forth. It can include apps for food networks (e.g. Food Network) or it can include those of celebrity chefs (e.g. Rachel Ray). A lot of the time, there can be a blurring of the proverbial lines between one or more of those examples. For example, McDonald’s food can be delivered through a blend of Uber and McDonald’s. Another example would be cross-promotion between certain apps and certain celebrities. Before looking at the food industry in particular, it would be wise to look at the mobile app industry as a whole. 91 percent of the adult population in the United States owns a cellular phone. Of that whole, 61 percent own smartphones. The number of units out there at least doubles that of personal computers (PC’s). The aggregate market is about 268 billion app downloads with there being about $77 billion in total revenue. Just over half of all app users have not paid for apps. However, 46 percent of users have reported being willing to do so or having done so. These apps normally go for five dollars or less. In some instances, the apps cost $20 or more, although less than a fifth of all users have been willing to spend that much. The most commonly used types of apps include search/portals (e.g. Google), entertainment, communication, commerce/shopping and productivity tools (Clifford, 2014).

It is slightly different than what Pocket Chef will be designed to be, but the mobile food app industry is growing quite large. The UberEats (and similar) industry, by itself, is mushrooming in size and scope. It is to the point that it can cause a restaurant to be “left behind” if they are not making use of the mobile revolution. Online food ordering is projected to be a $38 billion industry by 2020. There are already situations where a tenth of all food sold at a given chain is from mobile ordering of some sort. The mobile ordering can be to enable and facilitate delivery (e.g. UberEats). It can also be pre-ordering so that the food or drink is ready to go when the person arrives rather than having to arrive and then order. Starbucks and Pizza Hut are examples of firms that are doing just that. This is not a huge adjustment for firms that have done delivery in some form for quite a while. The just-mentioned example of Pizza Hut would be an example. However, it is something that is fairly to very new to some firms. Starbucks would be an example of that (Taylor, 2016).

With that in mind, there are plenty of people that are of the “foodie” persuasion. This can obviously include people that like to dine out. However, there are plenty of others that like to use their mobile devices and apps to make their own food. This could be something that they saw Rachel Ray or the people on The Chew prepare. It can also be something that takes advantage of what food and ingredients are on hand rather than necessitating more food being bought. This keeps pantry and refrigerator contents efficient and it saves times. This is where Pocket Chef comes in. There are a lot of people that are pushed for time or money due to other commitments or limitations. There are also people that are just curious what they can make with their favorite ingredients. Regardless, the depth and breadth of what is currently being offered, not to mention what is to come, is important to explore and review in terms of industry, current trends and so forth. The following examples and graphics can help prove the point even further.

An example of what Pocket Chef will be doing can be seen by seeing what Eden Foods is doing when it comes to their app. Much like what Pocket Chef will be, people can search by ingredient and otherwise customize their food preparation based on what they have on hand rather than picking something first and then worrying about the ingredients. It is very much like the aforementioned use of Starbucks or Pizza Hut to pre-order items with a pre-conceived decision in mind rather than figuring out after the fact. A screenshot of the current Eden Recipes model can be seen below. There are also a few other recipe/food apps that follow that one. They will serve examples of features that Pocket Chef might use. They will also show what the competition is doing independent of what Pocket Chef will be doing or not doing.

(Eden Recipes, 2018).

(Lempert, 2018).

The above application is Grocery Hero. This existing application is very much like what Pocket Chef will resemble, at least in terms of overall function. It is useful in that one can input ingredients from the refrigerator, the freezer or the pantry. Once everything is input, there is then the ability to search for the recipes that fit the desired food options (Lempert, 2018).

(FoodMix, 2018).

The above is a continuing of the same theme noted above. One can see, in the search bar, that one could focus on ingredient, dish or keyword. Thus, it might be wise for Pocket Chef to expand its scope and reach just a little bit. The other apps that are out there are rather feature rich and any new entrant into the market will need to follow the same pattern.

A graphic that explains the wider home food preparation and recipe mobile app paradigm can be seen below:

(Mignot, 2015).

Below are a few more screenshots of existing apps:

(Sweet Setup, 2018).

This app shows an option where there are both tablet and smartphone based options. The rendering, sizing and so forth will have to be done correctly for any application (Pocket Chef or otherwise) to succeed). The text has to be readable, the menus have to be easy to access and so on.

(Personhood Nevada, 2018).

The above is another option that Pocket Chef might explore. Whether it is traditional laptops with Windows or whether it is tablets that can resemble computers in terms of docks and so forth, a full-size option that shows on a personal computer-sized screen is something else that many app makers do, and thus should be considered.

A good amount of the vendors and brands listed above will be somewhat or very involved with the paradigm that Pocket Chef will be involved with. After all, many of the foods that are already on hand will come from one or more of the above vendors. Further, it is true that Pocket Chef will take the ingredients on hand to save extra shopping from becoming necessary. However, it may still be necessary to order some food items to fill out a recipe. When such a situation arises, a buyer can use Pocket Chef in conjunction with one or more of the other vendors to fill in the missing pieces for a dish that has been chosen. The billions and billions of dollars that are rendered and moved by those firms means that the market space that Pocket Chef will reside is different in size and scope depending on what precisely is being looked at. For example, Blue Apron and Wal-Mart, by themselves, sell a great number of items. Wal-Mart, by itself, sells half a trillion dollars of goods every year, although many of them are not grocery- or food-related (Fingas, 2017).

(Denver, 2018).

The above chart makes another chart makes a point that is similar to the above. It was made clear above that while the Pocket Chef concept is certainly within the food and dining realm of the mobile app industry, there is certainly a crowd of different concepts. Further, some of those related, yet different, concepts are somewhat to very different than what is going to be the subject of this proposal. With that in mind, the chart above from the University of Denver should make clear that the Pocket Chef concept is going to be part of multiple classification of app styles and concepts that are exploding in popularity. The top category, for example, is personalization. This means catering and customizing an app to what a user wants rather than pigeonholing them into something in particular or otherwise guiding them too much. TGiven the more than three-fold increase in that as a category from 2014 to 2015 alone, it would be important to keep things as customized and personal as possible rather than using a universal or “vanilla” experience with Pocket Chef. Beyond that, one could also point to utilities and productivity (125 percent gain), lifestyle and shopping (81 percent gain) and health/fitness as all being directions and realms that Pocket Chef could inhabit. For example, Pocket Chef could pick recipes that are avoiding of high amounts of sugar, salt or calories in general rather than just spitting out random recipes. There could also be catering towards people with lactose intolerance or gluten allergies. There could be mindfulness towards people that are vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan. As one can easily see, this easily feeds into lifestyle and personalization, as mentioned before. This simply proves that a properly design app will have the users in mind and that it will transcend singular categorization, either within its own realm of apps (food-related) or in terms of general type or function (Denver, 2018).

With all of that being said, it would be wise to look at the top mobile apps that focus on recipes and home cooking. According to Emily Schiola, the top apps out there on the Android (Google) and iOS (Apple) markets are as follows:

1) Oh She Glows

2) Big Oven

3) Food Network

4) Yummly

5) All Recipes Dinner Spinner

6) Cookpad

7) Epicurious

8) Side Chef

9) My New Roots ($5)

10) Weber’s On The Grill

11) Kitchen Stories

All of the above applications are free to download and start using, at least initially, except for My New Roots, as indicated in the parentheses (Schiola, 2017).

Something else to consider when it comes to food app usage and statistics would be whether people are wont to use smartphones or tablets. This is an important consideration when it comes to designing how the app renders and displays the input fields and results for Pocket Chef. Recent statistics can be seen below:


The above shows that smartphones are still dominantly used as compared to tablets. However, there are variances between generations. People in the middle age brackets are a little less likely to use tablets while those that are younger (18-24) or older (45+) are all in the 20’s in terms of percentile. Beyond the raw statistics above, there are a few other statistics that are somewhat or very relevant to what shall be needed for the Pocket Chef design scheme.

· Mobile application downloads in 2017: 197 billion

· Mobile application downloads on Apple/iOS phones: 25+ billion

· Mobile application downloads on Android phones in 2015: 50 billion

· Mobile application downloads on Android phones in 2016: 90 billion

· Type of mobile app used the most: Social networking

· App used most by Millennials: Amazon (Dogtiev, 2018).






Most of the major questions asked in the assignment for this part of the proposal will be answered here. There are a few things that should be clear from the above. First, the genre is very new, just as the mobile app genre is fairly new. Indeed, it basically didn’t exist even twenty years ago, as the internet was just emerging itself at that point. The genre really did start ramping up in the last ten years. The product is not terribly important, although it can be used to guide diet, health and efficient spending of money if it is done correctly. Because of the cross-sectional appeal and applicability of these apps, looking at much (but not all) of the wider market would be wise. Even if specific numbers cannot be pinned down, the genres, aspects and parts of the app are all laid clear when looking at what the consumers crave and why. There are millions of users in the United States alone and there are billions of applications that are being downloaded. This alone proves that any new application should be designed with the proper ideas and goals in mind. At this time, there is no foreseeable plateau or peak of the market other than when the market becomes truly saturated and full. That may happen soon enough. However, it will not be for a while. Even if that does happen, there will still be competition and scraping for market share percentage. Lastly, there will have to be some way to gain revenue. The two primary options will be to charge for the app and/or to have free users subject to ads so as to finance and pay for the development of the application.







Clifford, C. (2014). By 2017, the App Market Will Be a $77 Billion Industry (Infographic).

[online] Entrepreneur. Available at:

[Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].

Dogtiev (2018). App Download and Usage Statistics 2017 – Business of Apps. [online] Business

of Apps. Available at: [Accessed 17

Feb. 2018].

Eden Foods (2018). Creation & Maintenance of Purity in Food. [online] Eden Foods. Available

at: [Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].

Fingas, J. (2018). Walmart sells meal kits to challenge Amazon and Blue Apron. [online]

Engadget. Available at:

[Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].

Lempert, P. (2018). SupermarketGuru – The App Review: GroceryHero. [online] Available at:

review-groceryhero.html [Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].

Mignot, M. (2018). The Billion Dollar Food Delivery Wars. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: [Accessed 17

Feb. 2018].

Personhood Nevada (2018). Mobile and Computer Food Applications. [online] Available at:


laptop.jpg [Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].


Schiola, E. (2017). Give Rachael Ray a run for her money with these 11 best cooking apps.

[online] Digital Trends. Available at:

cooking/2/ [Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].

Sweet Setup (2018). Our favorite grocery shopping app – The Sweet Setup. [online] The Sweet

Setup. Available at:

app/ [Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].

Taylor, K. (2016). The biggest change in fast food isn’t about food — and it should terrify chains

that can’t keep up. [online] Business Insider. Available at:

[Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].

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