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The Global Food Industry: The Skinny on Cooking- and Recipe-Sharing Apps

In decades past, old recipes were cataloged in binders, wooden boxes, or ear-marked pages within magazines. But with digitization and the Internet, this rapidly changed. Suddenly, cooking classes and competitions with celebrity chefs were being streamed. Internet forums where foodies shared their favorite dishes exploded. And most recently, recipe apps have boomed, with many having millions of followers. For those who enjoy cooking at home, tens of thousands of recipes can be quickly searched to satisfy one’s cravings. And even better, these cooking apps are introducing new cuisines to people across the globe.

Cultural Variations in Consumer Recipe Needs

In the U.S., food preparation has become an entertainment industry. Celebrity chefs have their own networks and competitions, with millions of viewers watching. As a result, many Americans who enjoy cooking more complex meals tune into these shows. Others prefer the convenience of eating something quick, like a frozen meal popped in the microwave. And of course, many simply choose to have their meals delivered, given the increase in food delivery options. (Read more about the tectonic shift in food delivery services in this Bold story.) Therefore, cooking apps in the U.S. are often geared for those who prefer practical, easy recipes. These types of recipe apps tend to get the most attention in this country.

However, this is not necessarily the case in other areas of the world. For example, Cookpad is among the most popular recipe apps globally despite being infrequently used in the U.S. It was launched in Japan in 1997 with a focus on authentic, Japanese cuisine. Since that time, it has expanded into 76 overall countries offering diverse, region-specific dishes. Given that other cultures want cooking apps that celebrate their unique cuisines. Cookpad has become quite popular. In fact, it has over 100 million visitors each year to its site. In celebrating diversity, Cookpad has tapped into a completely different market for recipe apps that lacks appeal in the U.S.

Social Sharing and Videos Rule

While cultural diversity certainly exists when it comes to cooking apps, some things are commonly shared. For one, those seeking recipe apps often enjoy watching others prepare the dishes. This is especially popular on social platforms like TikTok and Instagram where some specific recipes have gone viral. In fact, TikTok recently partnered with Whisk, which is one of he more recent recipe apps launched in 2019. Whenever users post a recipe video in TikTok, they have the option to add a “see full recipe” button. This then lets viewers go to a Whisk recipe within the TikTok platform to review ingredients and instructions. These types of partnerships between social media platforms and cooking apps will likely expand in coming years.

Other features that seem appealing to those using cooking apps is the ability share and connect with others. Several of the recipe apps now have this feature, allowing users to comment on their own experience. Likewise, some sites let users pin recipes to community boards or easily send directly to friends and family. In fact, Cookpad embraced this as a key aspect of its recipe platform. The vast majority of those posting recipes on Cookpad are not celebrities, social media influencers, or even professional chefs. Most are simply people who enjoy cooking at home and want to share with others. The organic and authentic aspect of this is why some prefer Cookpad to other cooking apps available.

Someone cooking chicken from their smartphone
The global food industry continues to expand, with recipe-sharing apps bringing cuisine know-how into homes.

Top Cooking Apps on the Market Today

Cookpad is one of the most-used recipe apps in the world today, but in actuality, many others exist. Some are more popular with a higher number of users. Others are smaller and serve a niche area. In the process, several are enjoying success given the diversity of those seeking cooking apps. And with the increased access to ethnic foods everywhere, these recipe apps will continue to be in high demand. The following a just a few of the other popular ones on the market today.

  • Allrecipes Dinner Spinner – Perhaps the largest of the recipe apps on the market is Allrecipes. They boast over 50,000 dinner recipes and are available in 200 countries. From easy to complicated, their recipes cover a vast array of cuisines. Likewise, they offer detailed instructions, ingredient lists, reviews, and much more for users.
  • Whisk – One of the more recent cooking apps to the industry, Whisk has gained ground through partnerships. In addition to TikTok, they also partner with Amazon, Walmart, Kroger and Instacart to assist users with grocery shopping. They are already reporting over 1.5 million interactive users per month.
  • Yummly – This recipe platform offers access to over 2 million recipes on a variety of web-based devices. In addition to allowing users to filter recipes by food allergies and preferences, it also learns user preferences. Therefore, the longer you use Yummly, the better it becomes at recommended your preferred meals to cook.
  • Paprika – With many recipe apps, a few inconveniences may exist like metric conversions and dimming of the screen after a delay. Paprika minimizes these inconveniences, which is why many users enjoy cooking their meals. It also lets users interact with its interface by crossing off tasks or items along the way.
  • Big Oven – Like Cookpad, Big Oven also tends to have many recipes listed from at-home cooks rather than professionals. In addition, Big Oven lets you scan handwritten family recipes to your app. With over 350,000 recipes available, many users are finding this cooking app is ideal for them.

A Variety of Recipe Apps from Which to Choose

As with many industries today, the recipe-sharing community is rather diverse in their preferences. Some individuals seek recipes apps that provide practical, convenient ways to prepare meals at home. Others prefer cooking apps that allow them to challenge themselves and expand their culinary talents. And still others want to find recipes that offer them a taste of their native culture and cuisine. This diversity among the users of recipe apps has allowed many different cooking apps to thrive in the marketplace. Depending on one’s preference, there’s pretty much something for all.

 

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Inside the ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Business Model

Allowing customers to delay payments for immediate gratification is nothing new. Companies have extended credit to their clients for this purpose since commerce began. The ability to make installment payments over time allows consumers to afford more now than would otherwise be possible. And for businesses, it increases sales volumes and revenues over time. While buy now, pay later companies are therefore not new, those targeting online e-commerce have appeared more recently. And this is one industry where competition is clearly heating up.

As e-commerce has grown over the past year, buy now, pay later companies recognized a shift was needed. (Read more about the state of e-commerce in this Bold story.) Rather than traditional programs, customers needed to be given the option for installment payments at e-checkout. Thus, many startups formed that partnered with retailers to extend such options to their customers. But as the industry is evolving, it’s clear that different approaches using such a model may be needed. And at the same time, it’s also evident many industries besides retail could benefit from these services as well.

“The future of Buy Now, Pay Later usage suggests an even more nuanced picture, as the retention rates reported by some companies are astonishingly high. For example, Afterpay reported 91% of sales during the first quarter of 2021 were from repeat customers.” – Jared Drieling, Senior Director of Market Intelligence and Insights at TSG

An Overview of Current Buy Now, Pay Later Companies

There are literally dozens of buy now, pay later companies on the market today with some better recognized than others. Those dealing in e-commerce primarily include Affirm and Klarna among others. In essence, each of these companies work with a variety of retailers to offer customers the option of making installment payments. For each retailer, these companies integrate their offerings into the online checkout process. And in doing so, retailers enjoy increased conversions. According to industry reports, purchases tend to be roughly 27 percent higher when such installment payments are available.

From a traditional sense, buy now, pay later companies earn revenues from financing fees and late fees on installment payments. In general, these businesses operate like any bank, lending money to customers for repayment later. But unlike banks, as well as credit cards, specific regulatory oversights have not yet been well defined. Many countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., are currently reassessing how this sector should be monitored. In the meantime, however, these companies are doing quite well as customers increasingly utilize their services. Surveys have now shown that nearly 40 percent of all consumers have tried these buy now, pay later companies. And on average, they tend to spend about $300 more as a result.

“We go to [customers] and say, pay over time, and use us anywhere you like. We built this technology plugging them in on one side and plugging retailers on the other. We can now build up any way to pay and can use it anywhere they like without being restricted by retailers.” – Philip Belamant, CEO and Founder of Zilch

New Companies Taking a Different Approach

Existing buy now, pay later companies certainly offer retailers increased opportunities to attract clients. But the standard approach tends to require integration of the company’s services into the retailer’s platform. Because of this, such companies are dependent on their relationship and agreement with retailers. Understanding this, some companies are considering a different approach that allows them to connect directly with customers instead of retailers. Specifically, Zilch now offers customers the option of installment payments by way of an agreement with Mastercard. As a result, Zilch can interact with customers on any site offering Mastercard payments without ever dealing with the seller.

 

An app facilitating the Buy Now Pay Later business model
The ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ business model is having a renaissance–and it’s being fueled by innovative technology.

Zilch is unique in other ways as well. Because Zilch operates through a Mastercard platform, it collects credit card fees from the retailer. It also doesn’t charge customers late fees for missed payments but instead simply freezes their account. Zilch also could potentially be added to a digital wallet for touchless payments in brick-and-mortar stores. Simply by taking a different approach Zilch has made installment payments more accessible to customers in many markets. Likewise, it is also one of the first buy now, pay later companies to become authorized as a consumer credit provider. All of these features have fueled the company with major funding, resulting in a current valuation of $500 million.

“In five years, our vision is to be carrier agnostic. So, no matter where you are in the healthcare system, you can use Walnut to break up your medical bill into a monthly plan.” – Roshan Patel, Cofounder of Walnut

Expanding Installment Payments Beyond Retail

For the most part, buy now, pay later companies have primarily been attracted to retail sectors. But this too is quickly changing. Lately, several such companies are exploring opportunities in service sectors as well. By offering installment payments for a variety of services, customer access also increases in addition to use. For example, Affirm is one of the buy now, pay later companies offering options within the travel industry. Sunbit is another one that gives customers options for installment payments for car dealership services. These types of services are ideal for buy now, pay later companies because they tend to involve higher consumer costs.

Perhaps, one of the last industries to consider buy now, pay later companies is healthcare. But that too is evolving. Walnut is one such company that hopes to provide these services throughout the healthcare sector to patients. Currently, it offers patients to option for installment payments on a variety of elective procedures. These include things like cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and dermatology. But in time, Walnut hopes to provide similar options for emergency room patients and service providers in the community. Such offerings could go a long way in reducing financial stress among those with rising healthcare costs.

Favorable Projections for the Future

Given the rise in e-commerce, most analysts expect buy now, pay later companies to thrive in the coming years. While regulatory changes could affect this growth, they’re more likely to simply impose consumer protections. As a result, many project that these types of installment payments will account for 10 percent of purchases by 2024. Just as subscription services have recently boomed, it’s therefore likely buy now, pay later offerings will as well. (Read how subscription-based services are the future in this Bold story.)

 

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Banking on the Great Outdoors: The Recreation Business Boom

Over the course of the last year, Americans have rediscovered their love for the great outdoors. With few indoor options for recreation during the pandemic, many turned to various outdoor recreational activities. They broke out dusty outdoor gear and equipment that hadn’t been used in a while. Or they purchased the items they needed in order to regain some type of normalcy amidst lockdowns and quarantines. As a result, the outdoor recreation industry boomed, and an array of companies enjoyed banner years in the process.

While the pandemic was a catalyst for people re-engaging in outdoor recreational activities, it wasn’t the only one. In fact, many individuals and families were already spending more time camping, hiking, and kayaking. Because of this, some specific startups had already launched when COVID struck, placing them in a winning business position. (The pandemic made winners out of other businesses and sectors, too – read about them here.) And from their perspective, they expect the demand for outdoor gear and equipment to continue to rise. Based on the figures and projections to date, they may well be correct in their assessment.

“We spent nearly eight months on the road living in an RV, talking to RV owners and travelers to better understand the industry and learn what consumers would want and value in a marketplace. It was after that time living on the road that we knew we had uncovered a multi-billion-dollar market hidden before our very eyes.” – Jeff Cavins, Co-founder and CEO of Outdoorsy

Drivers of the Outdoor Recreation Boom

Naturally, the pandemic forced many to reconsider outdoor recreational activities this past year. According to industry reports, this sector expanded to $887 billion globally with an increase of over 50 percent. Camper van rentals alone grew to $40 billion in revenues with more than two-thirds of bookings being first-time renters. And likewise, the demand for outdoor gear and equipment outpaced supply, resulting in several product shortages. Without question, COVID was a major driver for these shifts, but others also existed as well.

A group of people chilling around a campfire
Outdoor recreational activities have dramatically increased in popularity, creating an outdoor gear and equipment boom.

Prior to the pandemic, popularity of outdoor recreational activities was already increasing. Between 2014 and 2019, sales of outdoor gear and equipment grew by 72 percent according to some reports. Some of this growth has been attributed to increased use of social media, which got some people’s attention. But at the same time, trends like increased urbanization and environmentalism also encouraged individuals to explore nature more. In essence, the pandemic simply fueled a market that was already set to expand. But rather than gradual, steady growth, it instead exploded as people realized what great escapes outdoor recreational activities offered.

“I think anytime you have like 2,000 articles with two dozen tips on how to use a product, that tells me that it is really, really too hard to use. To me, that says there’s nothing but friction in this process. If you want to build something that’s mainstream, you need to make it super consistent and really easy to use.” – Scott Kubly, Founder of Cabana

Companies Taking Advantage of the Boom

The outdoor recreation industry has always been popular but not necessarily the most user-friendly. That’s why less than half a percent of people actually take a camping trip each year. Likewise, outdoor gear and equipment can often be confusing and complex to use without proper instruction. But several companies are addressing these problems and reducing barriers for consumers. This too has helped increase the demand for outdoor recreational activities as of late. The following are just a few companies making outdoor activities easier.

  • Outdoorsy – This company was started in 2014 in an effort to create an RV rental marketplace between renters and listers. This was the area of outdoor gear and equipment they believed needed help. After 8 months of RV camping and over 1,200 personal calls to campers, Outdoorsy officially launched. Today, this represents the largest international RV marketplace platform, bringing in over $1 billion in sales a quarter.
  • Hipcamp – This San Francisco-based startup also offers an online marketplace for outdoor recreational activities. But instead of RV rentals, Hipcamp helps consumers find unique campsites and camping experiences. Launched in 2013, Hipcamp lists a variety of camping opportunities from private property owners. These include not only private campgrounds but also glampsites, cabins, treehouses, and more.
  • Cabana – Roughing it while camping might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Even with an array of outdoor gear and equipment, some may simply want a more luxury experience. If that’s the case, Cabana may be a solution. This 2019 startup offers mid-size camper vans that have been turned into luxury hotel rooms. Equipped with showers, bathrooms, and everything you might find in a hotel suite, their camper vans appeal to many.
  • AllTrails – Founded in 2010, this San Francisco-based company was way ahead of the trends related to outdoor recreational activities. Today, AllTrails is the “go-to” site for finding and learning about thousands of trails across the country. Not only is the app ideal for hikers and backpackers but also for runners and cyclists as well. Plus, the app easily lets you log your outdoor excursions for future reviews. Just download the app, grab any necessary outdoor gear and equipment, and go!

“They say 30 days is a habit, 6 months is a lifestyle, and now that we’re a year past this pandemic in this country, all signs point to the fact that we’ve made the decision to seek the outdoors for access to wide open spaces.” – Mary Monroe Brown, Director of the Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreational Activities

Outdoor Recreational Activities in a Post-Pandemic World

Those who sell or rent outdoor gear and equipment naturally face some upcoming threats as the pandemic subsides. Some analysts are concerned that outdoor recreational activities may lose their popularity in the process. But those in the industry believe otherwise. As companies have made access to outdoor recreational activities easier, many have adopted these as part of a healthy lifestyle. And with other drivers still in place, the demand for outdoor gear and equipment is expected to persist. At least for the immediate future, the great outdoors looks to be quite the attractive industry.

 

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