Improvising With Quarantine Pantries: How Daily Feast Helps Consumers Cook
With consumers stuck at home and cooking a lot more, they've been telling us at The Hartman Group that new sources of culinary inspiration for the foods they have on hand are a key component of coping with the pandemic. And that's not all: inspiration "for foods on hand" in quarantine-influenced pantries and refrigerators is just one component of the new normal as consumers improvise meals with less (than perfect) ingredients, try not to waste food and all the while seek out new ingredients and tastes.
To find out more about how a digital platform might connect consumers with solutions and inspiration for ingredients on hand, we interviewed Andy Vutam and Tony DeLizza, co-founders of Daily Feast, a platform described as "the ultimate kitchen hack," which enables users to "get simple to execute and creative recipes based on ingredients that they already have on hand."
The Hartman Group (THG): One of the interesting aspects of the Daily Feast platform is the idea that consumers can inspect their pantry and refrigerator for what they have on hand, type in those ingredients, and get recipes from your database. Have you seen any trends in terms of what types of recipes are most popular?
Daily Feast: Daily Feast offers a range of recipes that vary in food styles and complexity. Our users tend to use Daily Feast especially during dinnertime and favor recipes that are simple and quick to get on the table. Our database contains a lot of recipes that are five ingredients or less and can be prepared in as little as 15 minutes, using ingredients they already have on hand. These tend to be searched the most. Secondly, our users are constantly looking for meal inspiration that gives them unique ways to use common ingredients in surprising new ways. For instance, one of our most popular recipes to date is a Viet-Cajun Shrimp Stir Fry that uses Cajun spices alongside traditional Vietnamese ingredients like a fish sauce to replicate a popular food trend that's taking place in the southwestern region of the U.S.
THG: This idea of utilizing food on hand at home (with the obvious benefits of cutting down on food waste) is compelling. Have you heard back from consumers on how this is helping them waste less food?
Daily Feast: Consumers like the idea of being able to utilize ingredients that they already have. In fact, it was ranked as one of the top features of Daily Feast when asked. While we have not surveyed our users on whether they are making the connection between using up their ingredients and food waste, we do understand that this feature of Daily Feast is a huge convenience factor that encourages them to get into the kitchen and use up ingredients sitting in their pantry and refrigerator. For food brands that are interested in partnering with us, it's a great way to introduce their ingredients to a number of consumers and influence behavior as our consumers are getting inspiration to use their specific brand while they are in their own kitchen.
THG: Improvisation in the kitchen at home is a big deal these days — stemming mainly from a variety of factors relating to barriers like fewer trips to stores, reduced variety of ingredients available in stores, fewer (or "wrong") ingredients on hand at home. How do you think Daily Feast helps consumers improvise with the ingredients they have?
Daily Feast: Our ever-growing database of recipes offers our users the ability to not only cook familiar meals but explore different cooking methods and styles. The database is driven by our network of chefs who offer unique recipes using common ingredients that consumers have at home or generally shop for. For the average home cook, Daily Feast can also take the fear factor out of improvising at home because our search engine is designed to provide curated recipes each time a user inputs ingredients that they have on hand. One new feature that we are developing is the ability to substitute ingredients where users can find a replacement for items that they may not have on hand. It will become another feature that helps our users to quickly improvise while in the kitchen.
THG: One result of the pandemic we've seen in Hartman Group research has been not only increased improvisation in consumer kitchens but spikes in the use of packaged and shelf-stable foods (such as canned and frozen). Are there any CPG categories you've seen a particular interest in when consumers utilize your recipes (for example sauces, spices, canned foods, pasta, frozen, etc.)?
Daily Feast: While we don't have specific data per se, anecdotally, our users seem to be focused on traditional pantry staples, such as spices, pastas, canned tomatoes, chicken and vegetable stock, and other shelf-stable ingredients. From what we are seeing, there is a potential opportunity to help our users stock their pantry more strategically based on their favored cooking styles or dietary needs.
THG: Consumers have also told us that boredom and corresponding desires for more interesting tastes are leading them to look for inspiration in cooking and recipes. Do you see signs of a search for new tastes on Daily Feast?
Daily Feast: The Daily Feast platform delivers curated and unique recipes based on the combination of different ingredients that are entered at any given moment. As a result, our users are getting unique recipes almost every time, which helps promote exploration and discovery of new food styles. Another area that users can interact with Daily Feast is through our social media and online properties. Through these channels, users are able to engage with our featured recipes. To date, our most popular recipe, based on click-through responses, has been with emerging food trends, like the Viet-Cajun recipe mentioned previously and our plant-based recipes. This demonstrates the interest consumers have in finding variety.
THG: You mentioned to us prior to this interview that you're launching a "pantry box" functionality on Daily Feast. Can you talk about what that is and how you think it might connect consumers with brands?
Daily Feast: We are really excited about our Curated Pantry Box program as it offers food brand partners a low-cost way to provide samples, especially during COVID-19. In addition, this program addresses some key pain points that we have heard from food brands.
Through the Daily Feast web app and our online properties, we can work with food brands to identify and target specific consumers that they want to connect with. Each time a pantry box is delivered, recipes that use those ingredients featured in the pantry box are automatically delivered into the consumer's Daily Feast Digital Recipe box.
That way, the brands are able to interact with the consumer in a much more meaningful way, by giving them a way to use the sample in their own kitchen. And because we can predict when the consumer uses the sample, our food brands can deliver a follow-up offer to drive conversion and purchase of that brand to ensure that samples delivered can demonstrate an ROI for the food brand.
THG: In terms of the future and changing food culture, what role do you think Daily Feast might play in terms of connecting consumers with ingredients, recipes, retailers, chefs, and brands?
Daily Feast: We like to think of Daily Feast as a digital marketplace that connects users to chefs where they can discover new food styles and cuisines, to food brands where the preference for the brand is driven by trial and utilization, and retail locations where consumers can shop smartly for ingredients to prevent loss and food waste. By connecting consumers to chefs, food brands, and retailers, we are creating a unique environment and experience for our users to broaden their skills and increase their confidence in cooking unique chef-created meals.